Tag Snakes

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)

The hunters will become the hunted

A group of entrepreneurs and scientists set out down a jungle river in Borneo to search for the blood orchid, an extremely rare flower that blooms once every seven years and holds the key to eternal life. However, they are left stranded into the wilderness after an accident destroys their boat. They also soon realise that they are not alone in the jungle, as giant anaconda snakes lurk all around them.


With no connections at all to the original, no major stars in the cast and an approach which makes it far too serious for its own good, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid is about as unnecessary and unwelcome a sequel I’ve ever heard of. It’s like the original, minus all of the things that made that one such an entertaining ride – i.e. Jon Voight hamming it up and a decent animatronic snake. I’m guessing it was purely based on the reasonable box office success of the original, but I’m absolutely stunned to know that Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid received a theatrical release. Everything about it screams Sy Fy Channel.

Rather than ramping up the sequel by opening the purse strings, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid cuts back the budget and it shows. Anaconda was a financial success, making over three times it’s budget, yet the producers here opt to give this sequel even less money and still expect the team to work wonders with it. The first glaring thing you’ll notice is the cut-price cast. There’s no Jon Voight hamming it up (and this one desperately needed someone like that – Matthew Mardsen’s feeble human villain is no match for the original’s sneaky snake hunter). There’s no Latino in the form of Jennifer Lopez, so they cast an African American-Native American descendant instead to tick off a box. There’s no Ice Cube, though rest assured there’s a black man on the cast to spout off a loud of stereotyped dialogue. Heck, there’s no Eric Stoltz or Danny Trejo in a throwaway role. There’s just a bunch of lousy actors who any audience will struggle to recognise from anything else.

The second problem is that the story is so unbelievably contrived that it’s hard to ever be invested in it. The original was simply about a documentary crew who end up in the wrong stretch of river. This one borrows ideas from similar monster movies about science and experiments and ‘saving mankind’ and has this random assortment of suburbanites heading straight for the most remote place on Earth with little expertise. After establishing the fish-out-of-water scenario with the city slickers finding life on board the primitive boat to be difficult and then things like mobile phones not working, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid has more going for it during the first half of the film. The pacing is better and there are more incidents involving the snake (before the characters realise that there’s a snake) to build up the anticipation that the second half will continue to improve – regardless of the dumb MacGuffin stringing the narrative along. Sadly, that is not the case and the film sinks when the snakes do start to pick off the cast. But it’s not just the snakes they’ve got to contend with – the script writers saw fit to include a whole host of adventure movie tropes in here to throw in front of the characters (as if giant snakes wasn’t enough). They are obviously buying time here because they don’t want to show the audience the snakes.

This is where the third problem lies – the snakes themselves. The anacondas take far too long in thinning out the cardboard cut-out characters, but you’ll be glad they hold off on them for as much time as they do because they look lousy. Despite there being a seven-year gap between films, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid showcases even worse special effects than before. Let’s face it, the original snake didn’t look great in its CGI form, but the effects department did use a relatively sinister-looking animatronic snake for some of the shots. Here we have neither – there’s no ‘real’ effects to be seen and the CGI has gotten progressively worse. Considering that Anaconda was one of the big reasons that Sy Fy began churning out terrible monster movies with ever-worsening special effects, its not surprising to see that the film’s own sequel falls into the same trap.


Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid is almost like watching someone try to remake a film with a lower budget, a lesser cast and a worse script. Oh wait, that’s what it is. This sequel should have gone to the dogs in straight-to-TV hell like the next two sequels. Something full of this many clichés, awful special effects, terrible writing and poor casting choices should never see the light of day in the cinema.





Anaconda (1997)

Anaconda (1997)

You can’t scream if you can’t breathe.

A documentary crew set off along the Amazon River to locate and film a mysterious tribe who live in the rainforest. Along the way, they rescue a stranger called Sarone whose boat has been damaged in a storm. It turns out that he is a snake poacher and when an accident befalls the leader of the expedition, Sarone hijacks the boat so that he can hunt down the world’s largest and deadliest anaconda snake.


The late 90s was the last ‘great’ period for big screen creature features and by that, I mean the fact they actually got cinematic releases. The likes of Eight-Legged Freaks, Lake Placid, Deep Rising and Deep Blue Sea just don’t get as far as the big screen nowadays, with their modern-day counterparts being relegated to straight-to-streaming services. Anaconda was one of the biggest of this last hurrah and did decent business at the box office, showing producers that there was still a demand for this type of creature feature. Unfortunately for everyone, producers opted to go down the straight-to-video route and thus a glut of creature feature flicks began to emerge from the likes of Nu Image and Sy Fy. If you’re a follower of this site, we all know how that worked out in the end.

Anaconda is the perfect example of a film which should, by all accounts of its story and script, have gone straight to video. The fact it managed to secure a decent budget and attract some big-named celebrities to star in it (Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube) is baffling but I can think of recent examples where the same can be said – The Meg springs to mind. Did they even read the script before they signed up? Anaconda has a script which really squeezes the life out of the film before it gets going. From stupid characters to plot contrivances and even a first third which adds little to the main plot, the script seems to have been made up on the spot. There are supposed to be experts on this trip but not one person, save for the bad guy, seems to have any real clue about what they’re doing in the jungle. It all leads to a number of scenarios where common sense has been abandoned.

As I’ve said, there’s a first third which is dull as dishwater. There’s not even a hint of the anaconda during this time (save for the prologue) and we get some tedious river boat drama instead as the characters set sail along the Amazon. The cinematography is nice and crisp here with the on-location shooting being particularly pleasing to the eye. The exotic but dangerous jungle provides a nice alternative menace to the characters in the film, as a deadly scuba dive demonstrates. But we’re here for the titular beast and thankfully once it starts to hunt down the crew, Anaconda picks up ahead of steam. Pretty much every major event in the film is predictable enough for seasoned creature feature fans but there’s enough mileage in everything to keep it interesting. There are some tense moments, though you get the impression that some of the set pieces are over too quickly. I’m not surprised given that the anaconda cost $100,000 per second to animate!

The animatronic anaconda works to convey the sense of menace far greater than the CGI version. This is early in the CGI era and there are some ropey moments with the computer snake, but it hasn’t aged too badly in all honesty as this was cutting edge at the time. The snake isn’t used as much as you’d like and a lot of the set pieces with it are standard issue for this type of flick. The problem I have with the snake is that it appears to change size between shots. Sometimes the snake looks absolutely gigantic (like when it’s uncoiling itself from the roof of that old building in the finale) but then a couple of shots later it looks a little bigger than you’d find in a zoo. It moves far too quickly for a snake (especially one with a full stomach) but Anaconda isn’t the first and last killer snake flick to feature lightning-fast reptiles. It’s just an easy plot device to create some tension by having the snake catch up to people running away.

Anaconda has assembled a solid cast, a lot of whom star here before they really made it big. Jennifer Lopez, before she reinvented herself massively, is adequate in the lead role and her pairing with Ice Cube makes for a solid leading duo. Cube pretty much plays himself in any of the films I’ve seen him in so he’s not really acting, just playing it cool and tough and with that solitary facial expression he seems to have. It’s Jon Voight who completely steals and the show when he turns up partway through the film. Voight hams it up massively as slimy snake hunter Sarone to such levels that I’d be hard-pressed to think of another actor overacting as much as he does. That’s not to say he’s bad, in fact he’s so bad that his performance borders on brilliance – sneering and leering with a dodgy accent, Voight is obviously enjoying himself and adds a certain level of cheesy charm to the film. You’re either going to love him or hate him here, there’s no middle ground. I love him. He knows he’s in a bad film and acts the part accordingly.


Anaconda has lots of obvious problems but being dull and boring isn’t one of them: it’s entertaining from start to finish and is the perfect popcorn flick to watch when you don’t feel like something too heavy. It’s nowhere as terrible as it’s unwarranted reputation has accrued – for that, you should check out any number of the awful sequels.





Lake Placid Vs Anaconda (2015)

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda (2015)

Crocs on the dock. Snakes on the lake.

Wexel Pharmaceuticals enlists the help of local poacher Jim Bickerman in obtaining a giant crocodile from the famous Lake Placid nature reserve. During a procedure to extract blood, the crocodile awakens in the lab and causes havoc, unleashing a special variety of giant anaconda snake. With both the crocodile and snake on the loose in the wild, it poses further problems for the previously-besieged community.


The fifth film in the Anaconda series, and the first to be made since 2008, as well as the fifth film in the Lake Placid series, Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is just about the sort of film you’d expect to get when you combine two fading franchises whose attraction faded long ago. Did anyone really care about either series after the originals? I’m amazed that either series lasted as long as it did, though in reality they’ve been on life-support on the Sy Fy Channel for so long that it’s hard to remember they were originally both big hits in the late 90s.

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is exactly the same sort of nonsense that both respective franchises have been churning out for a few years – only now that they’ve merged into one crossover universe, I’d hope that we are saved from individual sequels from now on. It’s virtually a Lake Placid film with a giant snake added into the mix as the narrative runs almost like the previous few films in that specific franchise. The plot is flimsy at best and I’m not even sure I got why the pharmaceutical company was desperate to obtain a giant crocodile when their snakes were gigantic. I’m not daft and realise it was just an excuse to allow the snake to get loose but I’d rather see writers attempt to give me a convincing reason for all of the carnage.

This isn’t well-written, if written at all – it almost runs like someone just slapped together a load of deleted scenes from the aforementioned franchises and I struggled to really care about anything on show. Predictable death scenes are set-up a mile away. The creatures do damage that they shouldn’t physically be able to do. Apart from a few main characters, the rest are just non-characters who show up only to die in the same scene. Even the main characters have very little to do and rely almost solely on your knowledge of their characters from the previous Lake Placid films. Again, the film is so heavily one-sided with the Lake Placid stuff that you forget there is supposed to be a giant anaconda in there somewhere. Sy Fy has been churning out almost the same film for the last ten years or so across various ‘monster of the week’ guises and it’s all so, so, so, stale now.

Featuring an all-star line-up of Sy Fy regulars including Corin Nemec, Yancy Butler and Robert Englund, Lake Placid Vs Anaconda delivers the expected star power and a sense that at least some effort went into the film. In a rare bit of continuity with Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, both Butler and Englund reprise their roles. Englund’s character is a particular delight to welcome back, with a few less body parts after his last ordeal with the crocodiles, and he hams up proceedings with a typically enjoyable performance. The three of them have clearly been cast to add some names to the front cover, Englund especially trading on his past glories as Freddy. The other members of the cast, particularly the sorority girls, are awful actresses designed to provide mild titillation to the male audience before being eaten (and mild titillation just means they parade around in bikinis).

The film isn’t even that gory. Yes, there is some blood on show but the vast majority is the cheap CGI variety. It’s pretty rare to get anything as nasty as a leftover limb as the crocs and the snake swallow everything they see up. The CGI for both the snake and crocodiles is a marked step down in quality from their previous outings, which isn’t saying much as they were awful then and are even worse now. The crocs fair a little better, presumably because it’s easier to give the skin and scales some form and shape, rather than the long, slender and smooth snake skin that is on show. The creatures are well-fed, though as previously stated, the death scenes are set-up from a mile away and far too predictable. The worst problem is that they’re dull – you’ll not find any excitement or cheap thrills from the attack scenes.


Just because two franchises are owned by the same company doesn’t mean to say that a crossover film should happen. To quote Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm character from Jurassic Park, the studio was “so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is a painful attempt to milk the last few drops of money out of the respective franchises before both animals are finally sent to that big pet shop in the sky. One can only hope.





King Cobra (1999)

King Cobra (1999)

30 Feet Of Pure Terror!

A giant experimental King Cobra snake escapes a research lab and takes up residence in a small brewery town which is about to host its annual beer festival.


Who needs a lot of plot description when one line summaries will do? Very obviously a low budget Anaconda rip-off/cash-in, King Cobra is a typical example of late 90s and early 00s straight-to-DVD monster movies. Little creativity, little imagination, little scope and little reward for watching, the films are all interchangeable with one another, especially if you’ve seen upwards of twenty killer snake films in the same period of time like I have.

The star of the show is the snake and surprisingly, this isn’t some slithering CGI scare machine, it’s an animatronic model. Designed by the Chiodo Brothers (who did the remarkable make-up effects on the cult classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space), the snake doesn’t get an awful lot of screen time which is a shame because whenever it is on camera, the size and scale of it looks amazing. Having something physical on-set for the cast to visualise and interact with is always preferable to CGI post-production effects. The snake does have a limited range of motion but the copious use of POV shots try to mask that fact. Unfortunately, this also means that you won’t get to see much during the kill scenes. These tend to be brief affairs with the faintest hint of violence and blood. I guess these had to be sacrificed because the budget clearly went into the snake but the snake rarely looks like it attacks anyone as a lot happens off-screen.

Despite the decent special effects, King Cobra‘s major weakness is its script. It follows the routine Jaws formula with a monster finding its way into a small town celebrating some form of anniversary or festival and where the mayor wants to keep everything monster-related hush-hush as to avoid the event being cancelled or the town losing business. The first half sees the monster causing carnage around the town and the second half sees an intrepid group of people attempt to capture it. There’s nothing remotely original about it and you could quite easily replace the snake with various different monsters, serial killers or aliens and the end result would still be the same. There’s no style or substance to proceedings, just a monotonous going through the motions vibe. No one here was out to make a good film. They’re just in it to pay the bills until the next film comes along and it shows.

King Cobra is painfully slow and very dull. This is probably because there are plenty of scenes which lead nowhere and a couple of plot threads that have no bearing on anything that happens. There’s no sense of fun or excitement at all, and the scenes without the snake really drag the pace of the film down. Also not helping matters in the unserious tone. Either go full out spoof or play it straight but King Cobra bizarrely trends some middle ground, where it is too daft to be serious but not witty or goofy enough to laugh with (or at).

Pat Morita, forever known around the world as Mr Miyagi (from the original The Karate Kid), gets the top billing and plays up to stereotypical as a wise old snake hunter who gets to spout lots of facts and statistics and make it sound scientific. He looks a bit embarrassed to be starring in this but the royalties from his big hit won’t cover the bills forever! Scott Hillenbrand is the other ‘star’ and he’s also one of the co-directors which is a tad convenient if you ask me. Hillenbrand is just as wooden in front of the camera as he is clueless behind it. Erik Estrada has a cameo appearance as a flamboyant gay man so it’s not like the actors really had to push themselves into their roles.


King Cobra just doesn’t do anything fresh or remotely exciting, save for the decent snake special effects. The film has all been done before and done better too. It’s just too unoriginal to be interesting anymore, even down to the blatant “hey we want a sequel” ending (which thankfully never came to fruition).





Snake Island (2002)

Snake Island (2002)

There’s terror in paradise.

An African tour boat operator leads his latest group of tourists onto Snake Island, a hunting resort famous for its resident snake population. Only the snakes have multiplied in number and grown more aggressive and the resort is now deserted. It isn’t long before the group realise that the snakes have killed everyone there and they face an uphill struggle to escape.


I struggled to write a synopsis for this one as the story is really flimsy but hey, it’s an island full of deadly snakes and a bunch of humans get stuck there. You don’t really need much more plot than that because it takes care of itself. Another title which does what it says in two words, Snake Island says it all really.

Truth be told, I quite enjoyed Snake Island. I was expecting more of the usual CGI killer snake rubbish but was pleasantly surprised with how Snake Island turned out to be. It’s a rather terrible film but it gets that bad in places, that it becomes fun to watch. Sometimes it’s nice to watch a film about killer snakes where the snakes aren’t giant 50ft pythons or mutated crossbreeds with piranhas but rather the common variety of snakes that you’d find across the planet. Real life animals can be scary as we know we could come across them at some point so the sight of real snakes slithering across the ground will be enough to make your skin crawl (if you’re like Indiana Jones and hate snakes). I’d rather watch that than another fantastical giant mega snake slither around the woods for an hour and a half.

Snake Island at least ticks boxes for its use of real snakes, with sporadic dodgy CGI snakes thrown around when required. Using real snakes adds an extra element of danger to the film as you realise that they will have been unpredictable during filming. There are lots of them too of all shapes and sizes. But that’s as far as reality goes. These snakes have had enough of humanity and are communicating, organising themselves into an army of slithering soldiers ready to wipe man off the face of the Earth. They set traps, they team up and they understand what we are saying. They’ve got personality and a little bit of nous. The fact that they’re on an island with no way off kind of puts a kink in their plans for world conquest however.

The snakes might well be the biggest stars of the film and you’ll support their cause rather than get behind any of the numerous characters who become trapped on the island with them. The characters are really unlikeable here and it’s hard to get behind any of them, save for William Katt’s writer character. Katt is a B-movie mainstay with appearances in such nonsense as The Bone Eater, AVH: Alien vs Hunter and the TV movie remake of Piranha and stars as Malcom Page. He’s fairly affable as a cheap hero and most likely only did the film for a cheap holiday to Africa for a few weeks shoot. The rest of the cast whine, moan, bitch and generally irritate each other constantly – the worst bedfellows to get stuck on a remote island with!

Surprisingly, there’s a fair bit of female skin in this one. Director Wayne Crawford knows exactly what he’s doing, spicing things up at exactly the point in the film where your interest will be trailing off by throwing in two topless women dancing to techno music, promptly followed by a snake doing the same thing (not dancing topless, just dancing!). In fact the whole film thing has a bit of a dodgy undercurrent of sleaze, prompting me to wonder what this would have been like had it been made in the mid-80s.

After this aforementioned nude dance, the film begins to pick up steam. It’s rather lacklustre opening salvo, which has the characters roaming the island for what seems like an eternity with the snakes lurking in the background and waiting for their opportunity, seems to go on forever. But the nakedness kicks off a chain of events where the bodies begin to drop. It’s almost as if the snakes were waiting to get a glimpse of the girls before deciding whether to proceed with their plan or not. Loads of silly low budget nonsense ensues, with characters being dispatched in quick fashion. Whilst the film tries to remain serious, there is an element of tongue-in-cheek throughout, almost as if the director knew what he was doing without making it totally obvious. The finale, free of the obligatory ‘blow everything up to kill the monster’ clichés, seems to round this off perfectly as one character battles his way through the snake-infested forest smashing the reptiles out of the way with a cricket bat.


You’ll hate Snake Island if you have no tolerance of terrible films but suspend your disbelief for a little and you might warm to it. I am under no illusion that this is a bad film but there’s just the right amount of charm, sleaze and the fact that it’s a bit different to every other snake film out there to make it stand out a little.





Piranhaconda (2012)

Piranhaconda (2012)

Part Snake! Part Fish! All Killer!

A scientist discovers the eggs of a mythical snake whilst on an expedition to a remote part of Hawaii and steals one, incurring the wrath of the creature which sets off in pursuit. Meanwhile, a film crew shooting a low budget horror film on the island are captured by a bunch of gun-toting kidnappers who plan to ransom them off. When the scientist stumbles into their clutches as well, it isn’t long before the piranhaconda begins to spoil their plans.


So another month, another ludicrously-titled, over-the-top creature feature comes along. Sharktopus not only set the ball rolling with these crossover named monsters but also set the benchmark – whilst it will never be remembered as a great film, it ran with its silly premise and was a lot of fun. But now they’re all the rage and seem determined to out-do the last one in terms of throwing away common sense and reality. From the mind of infamous cult classic producer Roger Corman, the directing prowess of B-movie and exploitation maestro Jim Wynorski and with the Sy Fy Original tag of death comes Piranhaconda, the next of these films off the conveyor belt.

Part piranha, part anaconda (yeah I don’t get it and the film doesn’t bother explaining the cross breeding process either), the novelty value of the title and the monster alone won’t even manage to sustain your interest past the title credits let alone survive until the final reel. But these Sy Fy films rely on their titles to sell – the rest of the content is almost indistinguishable from the rest: tropical locations, similar sets, some of the same actors, repeated scenarios, etc. Piranhaconda falls into the same pitfalls as the likes of Dinoshark, Sharktopus and Dinocroc Vs Supergator in that when the title monsters aren’t snacking on humans, then the films blur into one with no identifiable differences between this one and the next. For all intents and purposes, you could swap the monsters around and it would make little difference to the outcome.

Piranhaconda is meant to be terrible because let’s face the blatant truth – it’s a filmed called Piranhaconda. There’s no beating around the bush as to what you’re going to get here. But the way in which it’s made is just shoddy and sloppy. Taking the easy way out, the film shows you the monster in all of its glory within the first fifteen minutes. No build-up. No gradual reveal. Just the money shot out of the way. So what’s left to get excited for? You see the monster so much throughout the film that you’re numbed to the sight of it by the time the finale comes. Though the title promises a unique creation, the eventual design looks more like an average snake with a weird head than any real hybrid of the two. Would it surprise you to find out that the CGI is awful? No, didn’t think it would. The same animations are used over and over again and it gets boring really quick. At least provide some variation in how the monster is going to kill its prey.

Corman’s best days are long behind him and though its highly commendable that he’s still giving many folks a chance to break into the business who may not get a proper shot in Hollywood, the film quality seems to have diminished greatly over the years. Compare these recent creature features to some of his earlier 80s sleaze and cheese fests like Forbidden World and Galaxy of Terror and the difference in quality is amazing. Back then, the films were still low budget and pandered to the lowest common denominators of blood and boobs but at least they were serious and treat the material with respect.

Nowadays, these films seem to be about goofing around too much and trying to be too clever with the silly ideas on display. Though quite why the script felt it necessary to throw in a load of kidnappers to act as human villains when there’s a big snake-thing slithering around the island eating people every five minutes is another matter. It increases the potential number of victims for the monster but the film features enough non-characters (characters who turn up in a film, maybe say a line or two and then get killed within the same scene) to feed an army of piranhacondas.

Another obstacle facing Corman, Wynorski and co. are the constraints within which they have to work for the TV audience – so that means no boobs. For men who have built careers on the exploitative market, these new films are stripped of the ingredients that pandered to the male demographic. Piranhaconda features a bevy of beautiful women yet a couple of them in bikinis is the raunchiest the film will get.

Michael Madsen pops up looking as bedraggled scientist and seems to be wearing a ridiculous toupee under his cowboy hat. As bad as he is slumming here, I still keep picturing Reservoir Dogs to remind myself not to go too hard on him. Rachel Hunter (more famous for her marriage to Rod Stewart than anything noteworthy in Hollywood) co-stars as one of the kidnappers but her character has no purpose whatsoever. I guess these two were cast for name value but both are easily upstaged by stunning co-star Shandi Finnessey who parades around in a yellow bikini.

On a random side note, I have the same scarecrow mask that the killer in the ‘Head Chopper’ film-within-a-film was wearing. Good choice whoever chose it!


I know this review has sounded more like a rant on this burgeoning sub-genre rather than any individual criticism of the film in question but Piranhaconda is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with this type of film. It had the potential to either be a complete joke or a right laugh and the eventual result in somewhere in the middle. It’s far from anyone’s greatest work but neither does it plumb the murky depths of the bottom of the barrel. It just seems like another complete waste of a fairly entertaining premise which is indistinguishable from every other CGI monster Sy Fy film.





New Alcatraz (2001)

New Alcatraz (2001)

12,000 feet below the Antarctic ice, it lays in wait.

A maximum security prison to house all of the world’s most dangerous prisoners is being built in the Antarctic. Under pressure to complete the prison, the engineers accidentally release a prehistoric snake-like monster from the ice which proceeds to start devouring anything in its path. So a call is sent out for the assistance of a palaeontologist, his wife and a team of military experts but when they get there, they are forced to team with the inmates in order to survive.


Apart from the mildly interesting Escape from New York-lite idea of building a maximum security prison to house all of the world’s most dangerous prisoners, New Alcatraz (which is a more misleading title than its alternative name, Boa) is another token CGI monster-on-the-loose flick which shares the same characteristics as its other slithery sidekicks AnacondaKing Cobra and Python. Though when I looked down the list of producer credits that director Phillip J. Roth has to his name and see the likes of Python, Shark Hunter, Dark Waters, Deep Shock, Lake Placid 2, Bats: Human Harvest and countless others, then I knew which sort of company I would be keeping for the ninety minutes of New Alcatraz.

New Alcatraz would have worked better as a low budget actioner without the monster…possibly. It’s so inept in almost every level that it’s virtually impossible to see how it could have worked as anything else in all honesty. Recycling every cliché in the book from every previous monster-on-the-loose flick as well as throwing in plenty of sci-fi action nonsense, the script borrows everything from Jurassic Park to Aliens and the isolated Antarctic setting is overly similar to The Thing. If even a quarter of the talent and entertainment from either of those aforementioned films was present here, then the film may have been something. But it wasn’t. Surprised? I didn’t think so.

I’m not sure whether building the prison from hell in the middle of the Antarctic and then filling it with the world’s most dangerous men with only a handful of guards BEFORE it is finished being built is something that any rationale country would go along with but it’s one of many ludicrous ideas that the script throws up. The prisoners range from Chechen rebels to Iraqi chemical experts to IRA terrorists – nice to see that they’ve filled up their quota of token ‘problem’ groups from around the world. All it needed was a rogue North Korean general and a Colombian drug lord and then you’d have had the full set.

There are too many characters plodding around the prison (which is weird considering that the prison itself isn’t fully populated with inmates and staff)and not enough time is devoted to some of the more interesting ones – the prisoners to be exact. It’s hard not to get drawn to charismatic Russian terrorist who infinitely is more entertaining than bland, one-dimensional scientists or wardens.

The cast is full of recognisable faces no doubt eager to get back into the big time. Obviously the star of the show (though he doesn’t appear until a third of the way in) is Dean Cain, fresh from Louis and Clark and clearly destined to appear in this sort of low budget nonsense for the rest of his career. Cain isn’t a bad actor and has a natural likeability but he just hasn’t got it, that extra dimension, which would have propelled him onto big budget films.Mark Sheppard has made a niche out of playing these snivelling bad guys in a whole host of TV series (see everything from 24 to The X-Files) and steals the show, Grand L. Bush was in a slew of 90s actions films such as Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and Licence to Kill and Craig Wasson, who plays the warden, had a pivotal role in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors as his genre claim to fame.

Finally, we come to the snake and it will come as no surprise to find out that the snake looks exactly the same as any other low budget monster movie CGI snake does. The serpent here could have come from Python or one of the Anaconda sequels and it wouldn’t look out of place. And the fact that the creature was a snake was a bit of a let-down. The script had the chance to create a unique prehistoric monster, something like the creature from The Relic for instance, but was happy reverting to type. Much like the rest of the film!


New Alcatraz is pretty bad. In fact it’s more than pretty bad, it’s awful. Once you’ve seen one modern CGI snake movie, you’ve seen them all and it’s just a case of seeing how repetitive things can get. How films like this get funding is beyond me, especially when more accomplished and promising talents get their films turned away at the first hurdle.





Silent Predators (1999)

Silent Predators (1999)

The hunt is on. You’re the Prey.

In 1979, a delivery truck transporting a deadly tropical rattlesnake in southern California is involved in an accident and the snakes manage to escape into the forest. Twenty years later and the construction of a new housing development disturbs a nest of these snakes which head straight towards the town and its residents.


John Carpenter supposedly penned this monster-on-the-loose flick as Fangs back in the 70s, presumably when he was slumming as an amateur filmmaker before he hit it big with Halloween. His original vision apparently included a lot of scares and disturbing scenes involving the snakes, which I can fully imagine as Carpenter wasn’t a slouch when it came to his films packing a punch. Fast forward twenty or so years later and the script is dusted off and eventually turned into this TV movie. Unfortunately someone seems to have misplaced the page with the good stuff on because Silent Predators is de-venomised snake mayhem at its TV movie-blandest.

Jumping on board the dreadful spate of recent *insert killer animal of the moment* on the loose flicks, Silent Predators is so by-the-book that it’s a wonder anyone could claim to ‘writing’ it as it seems to have been culled entirely from other sources. There must just be one generic script floating around out there which studios grab a hold of and replace one animal with another one. All of these films play out exactly the same, and are usually awful to boot. Here we’ve got the town which fails to address the obvious problem because it doesn’t want to lose the investment. Usually it’s some sort of festival they can’t afford to cancel and ignore the monster in the hope of saving the town’s finances but the housing development has become just as a big of a cliché. Characters act according to formula and not according to common sense (you know, doing stupid things simply to be put in a position of danger to try and generate some tension or further the plot).

Even their backgrounds and character traits are stock: there’s the hero with the shady past that he’s trying to put behind him; the greedy developer who is just thinking about profit; the local mayor who is stuck in the middle and makes some bad calls to save face. I had a game for the PC called The Movies in which you run your own film studio and could actually write and shoot your own films. You can select how your film will pan out using the various pre-filmed scenes in the game and you can replace characters at your choosing. Well I guess someone has been using a proper version of this game for years because this looks like it was simply patched together from a collection of pre-determined scenes. There’s no sense of cohesion with the film and some of the earlier scenes actually have more tension and purpose to them than the finale.

The choice of title is a bit puzzling when the snakes in question are rattlesnakes, named that because of the loud rattling noise that their tails make – hardly stealth snakes. Secondly they just look like ordinary snakes despite the plot saying that they’re mutated snakes. I guess I shouldn’t grumble too much as at least they are real snakes and not computer generated. The threat that they pose is never given enough time to really convince you that they could do some damage. The attacks aren’t scary and there’s too few of them to really worry about anyway.

I don’t know where he’s been hiding but Harry Hamlin, star of the original Clash of the Titans, stars in this film. I guess he’s a bright spot in an otherwise un-noteworthy cast, although there is a brief role Dominic Purcell who would go on to greater fame as Lincoln Burrows in the awesome TV series Prison Break.


The only surprising thing about Silent Predators is that the ending doesn’t leave itself open for a sequel. This is stuff you’ve seen before, and hated before too. I’m still not entirely sold on the ‘John Carpenter wrote this in the 70s’ stuff although the final product resembles nothing that Carpenter would ever have conceived making.





Python 2 (2002)

Python 2 (2002)

The beast is back.

Another top secret military project has been discovered in a remote part of Russia – a giant genetically engineered python. The snake is kept inside an underground military base but the Americans want it back and send a small group of mercenaries in to take the snake back. They hire an American truck driver who operates in the area to ferry the snake back to the US. But when they reach the base, they realise that the snake has escaped, killing everyone there. Now it’s a race against time to get out alive before the entire base is bombed from the air.


Not content with ruining the reputation of CGI snakes everywhere, the brains behind Python are back with the originally-titled Python 2. But there’s a catch – there are actually two snakes in the film! Get it? It’s the second film in the series and there are two snakes! Ingenious! I guess there are no real surprises here. You had a CGI crap fest of a film about a genetically engineered snake on the loose and fill the cast with a few names like Robert Englund and Casper Van Dien to try and draw the crowds. That’s fair enough. Python was acceptable. Being one of the first of the CGI snakes to be unleashed, it at least has the benefit of being slightly more original than most. To go ahead and make a sequel to a film not that many will have watched anyway just reeks of desperation. To have it feature one of the minor characters of the original obviously to add a bit of continuity is grasping at straws.

Python 2 doesn’t really need me to bash the film too much as it does most of that itself without knowing. It’s got a really bog standard opening sequence with a bunch of supposed soldiers using supposed high-tech equipment to track down the snake. You can predict the immediate future here: the officer in charge sends nameless soldiers to proceed onwards to investigate strange sounds and we know that there is a giant snake on the loose. Why the snake is loose in Russia is never answered nor is any attempt made to explain why it is the Americans who want it back. Just accept it! But shortly after it has been recaptured, the damned plane it’s being transported in is shot down by Russian terrorists. So you’d think the terrorists would open the container themselves? Wrong.

Moments later a squad of Russian soldiers wipe out the entire terrorist cell and take control of the container once more. But the Russians don’t think to report their finds back to their superiors – they just stash it away in their underground base. This round robin of snake-possession gets boring quickly, simply because the film is stop-start. Just when you think it’s going to settle down and actually have the snake escape and the film focus on one set of characters, it continues to pull the rug out from underneath. The opening twenty minutes is literally a pass-the-parcel between rival groups, with the snake being the unwanted present.

Finally though the snake is released and bad CGI carnage commences. Body count boosting is a pretty shallow ploy in these type of films, none more so than here. You’ve got the male hero, the hot female in distress, the shady government op and one of the hero’s friends (sorry mate, you’re too nice to survive these films) but apart from that the rest of the mercenaries are just there for fodder. The snake has a whole Russian base to munch through too which sadly happens off-screen. In a slight turn of events, it turns out that our male hero is in fact a famously washed up baseball player who fled America after an incident during a game. What the hell? Now he’s busting giant snakes for a living? It’s a totally pointless subplot but I guess it’s the sort of mindless nonsense that you’d expect from a film like this.

I think the only other thing worth noting about this piece of mindless drivel is its main star and said baseball player, Billy Zabka. He struck terror into the hearts of high school teenagers back in 1984 as the martial arts bully who tormented the Karate Kid and who was told to “sweep the leg” by his sensei. Years later and it’s refreshing to know that the guy has turned into a bargain basement action hero in straight-to-video fodder like this. That serves you right for trying to take short cuts to victory!


Usually you root for the snake in films like this simply because the cast suck and you want them to die sooner, rather than later. However the only thing I was rooting for here was the power to fail or the DVD to jam so I wouldn’t have to finish this miserable specimen of a sci-fi/action/horror  – whatever the hell Python 2 thinks itself as. Definitely a clunker for the Bottom 100 on IMDB in years to come.





Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Sit back. Relax. Enjoy the fright.

After Sean Jones witnesses powerful mobster Eddie Kim brutally murdering a prosecutor hell bent on putting him behind bars, experienced FBI Agent Neville Flynn convinces him to fly to LA to testify against Kim. However, Kim has stowed a crate of poisonous snakes on board the plane which are released in mid-air with the aim of bringing down the plane and any potential witnesses.


I’m not going to trawl back through the whole history of this film to start my review. Other reviews will have done it a lot more in-depth and I’m pretty sure everyone gets the gist of the phenomena behind the film. The whole internet thing from developing the story, to adding lines and demanding more violence is well documented. It’s certainly a unique hands-on approach with ‘fan power’ dictating a great deal of how the film was to turn out but given the disappointing box office returns, I don’t think Snakes on a Plane is going to usher in a whole new era of filmmaking from the comfort of the couch at home. The only thing on anyone’s lips right now shouldn’t be how it was made but whether it is any good or not. That can be answered with one word – Yes.

I must state on the record that Snakes on a Plane wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I was expecting something a little more cheap and cheerful along the lines of Eight-Legged Freaks. I was expecting the characters to ham it up a lot more. I was expecting more throwaway dialogue and a few more in-jokes and spoofs of other films. But forgetting all of that, the film is still one hell of an entertaining way to spend one hundred and five minutes. To be fair there wasn’t really a lot that could go wrong with this premise, even if director David R. Ellis had completely messed it up. He was on a win/win either way which is a bit of a cop-out. All he had to do was make sure the right buttons were pressed and he does. There’s the obligatory character development before they all get on board the plane. It’s almost like placing a bet on a horse. You do a bit of research first, see how each horse has been performing and decide which horse you’re going to wager your money on. Here it’s no different. Each character is given a few minutes to emit something like a personality and all you have to do is decide who is going to survive. There’s the obnoxious businessman (doomed). There’s the soon-to-be-retiring air hostess (doomed). There’s the horny couple (doomed). There’s the secondary cop (doomed). There’s the young, pretty air hostess (safe). There’s a baby on board (safe as houses). You get the message. It’s good to see such an array of clichéd characters – normally I’d have a bitch about this but given the nature of the film, anything but cardboard cut-out characters would have been supremely disappointing.

It isn’t long before the snakes are released and get doing some serious damage. These pesky things slither everywhere: up toilets (in a scene which will no doubt have guys triple-checking the toilets before taking a leak), up trousers (giving a new meaning to the phrase ‘trouser snake’) and lurking around in sick bags too. The snakes don’t look too bad. You can tell which are real and which are CGI. I guess that’s another reason why to cheer the film – it doesn’t make any bones about not having the greatest effects in the world. It just gets on with them and says take it or leave it.

The dialogue is quality. You’ve got Samuel L. Jackson’s immortal line “Enough is enough! I’ve had it with these mother f*****g snakes on this mother f*****g plane!” which will go down as an all-time classic. But there’s plenty of other great one-liners including one where the lights on the plane go out, prompting an extra to shout “it’s the snakes!” at the top of their voice. A lot of other lines involve characters saying things like “get this f*****g snake off my (insert body part here)”

Samuel L. Jackson does seem to be trying a bit too hard to turn this into a cult flick though and it’s clear that he is leading from the front in trying to be too self-conscious. The rest of the cast don’t do that bad either. There’s a whole host of familiar names in there, although none really famous on the big screen (Julianna Margulies from E.R. is there, as is David Koechner from Anchorman and Kenan Thompson from Kenan & Kel). They add a bit of credibility to the characters they’re playing although anyone truly famous in the supporting roles would have just been wasted.


After all of the hype, Snakes on a Plane turns into a better-than-average horror thriller that doesn’t quite live up to it’s potential but certainly delivers a smack across the faces of those who doubted it at the beginning. It’s self-conscious, knows what it wants to be and also knows its own limitations of what it can’t be. It never pushes the boundaries of the genre too much which is what I was hoping for but it’s still a fun, entertaining way to waste some time with Samuel L. and a horde of pythons, boas and anacondas. Everything just blends together so well into a neat little package.