Snakehead Swamp (2014)
"When you're in the bayou, you're dead in the water."
Whilst being transported in a truck that is involved in an accident, a bunch of mutant snakehead fish accidentally escape in the swamps around a small Louisiana town and proceed to start eating anyone who ventures too close to the water.
That’s about as good a synopsis as I’m going to squeeze out here as I wasn’t too sure on where the fish were going, why they’re so big, who was behind their creation, etc. The fact that they escape and then kill people is all you really need to know about Snakehead Swamp, another Sy Fy creature feature quickie. I think Frankenfish and Snakehead Terror already did the killer fish thing about ten years ago too – I’m guessing Sy Fy assume that, by today’s reboot/remake logic, they only needed to wait a few years by making pretty much the same film over again. I'll be honest and say that I have a hard time distinguishing the three films from each other so really hope I've sourced the correct photos, such is the impression that they were unable to make on me.
As I’ve said on reviews for other Sy Fy films, you can pretty much copy and paste a tried-and-tested basic formula and simply replace the monster-of-the-week with something else and the films are indistinguishable. There’s literally nothing that these snakehead fish (basically bigger piranha fish which can survive for short periods on land) couldn’t do that a giant crocodile or snake couldn’t do in the same locations and with the same story. And if you’ve seen even half a dozen of these Sy Fy films, then you’ll know how Snakehead Swamp will run from the first minute until the last. Director Don E. Fauntleroy made the terrible straight-to-TV Anaconda sequels, so he’s got some experience of dealing in these creature feature films and makes this equally as forgettable and non-descript.
Snakehead Swamp splits down into the usual three act formula – introduction of the problem, recognition of the problem and then resolution. It’s a tried-and-tested approach that even the likes of Jaws managed to pull off well. Only there’s no real drama to proceedings here – we know what is killing people off quickly because, like most Sy Fy films, the monsters are shown in all of their glory early on. It’s sad to see that in the time since Frankenfish and Snakehead Terror, the computer-generated fish look even worse now than they did ten years ago – special effects are supposed to be getting better, not progressively worse. Snakehead Swamp tries to compensate by splashing plenty of fake CG blood across the land and a bit of red liquid into the water to make the attacks seem gory; it’s a pity you hardly get to see any actual ‘action’ involving the fish. Again, replace the snakeheads with a giant crocodile and tell me that you wouldn’t notice the difference to the story. These films need to play up the uniqueness of their creatures – have them do things that other creatures can’t do to make a little bit more interesting or exciting. Instead, there are plenty of “something under the water” moments (like any killer shark film) or “something in the bushes near the water” moments (like any crocodile/alligator flick) which have been done to death.
The story runs through a familiar cycle of tropes without even a passing hint that the makers of the film intend to do anything remotely different or original with the material. Characters are cookie cut-outs, from the Bayou yokels to the estranged couple of the teenage lead character being brought back together through adversity, and are largely unappealing and unengaging. Give us some characteristics that will make the main characters seem more realistic than just another screen victim. I found it hard-pressed to remember any of the characters’ names here – even the woman with the badge. Was she a sheriff? A game warden? A cosplayer? Its difficult to engage with characters when you don't care about any of them and thus the whole piece becomes a countdown to who dies next.
There’s a voodoo sub-plot in here which adds precisely nothing to the narrative except give Antonio Fargas (Huggy Bear from the Starsky and Hutch TV series) a stereotypical witch doctor stereotype to embarrass himself in and another potential angle to the creation of the fish. Are they a product of this guy’s voodoo meddling or not? Who knows? Who cares? The voodoo sub-plot is referred to in a number of throwaway scenes and then quickly forgotten about once Fargas departs from the story. It was pointless padding but at least they had a 'name' to advertise the film with.
I’m really struggling for material on this one. Snakehead Swamp is utterly forgettable and makes me ponder the meaning of life. When the time comes, will I look back and regret how much time I have wasted watching such pointless ninety-minute exercises in absolutely nothing? Of course I will.
Director(s): Don E. FauntLeRoy
Writer(s): Greg Mitchell
Actor(s): Ayla Kell, Antonio Fargas, Terri Garber, Ross Britz, Sloane Coe, Dave Davis, Melissa Cordero
Duration: 86 mins