Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rattlers! Ssssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

It shouldn’t be hard to make a decent killer snake movie. Snakes are freaky. They have no limbs. They shed their skin. Their tongues are unnaturally forked and make flicking motions. Their bodies move in the kind of shapes created by rhythmic gymnasts twirling those pink and blue ribbons.  And worst of all, their  little mouths open wider than the Visitors of V eating the Thanksgiving guinea pig.

Like the thoroughly disappointing Snakes on a Plane, Rattlers presents a premise with fangs and executes it with dentures. Somewhere in the Mojave Desert, two atrocious child actors fall into a pit of stock footage rattle snakes. How can this not be a classic?

Sigh. It’s not. Nowhere close.

Our ‘hero’ is played by Sam Chew Jr., a man blessed with a great name and cursed by a severe lack of charisma. As Dr. Tom Parkinson, this herpetologist is defined by a professory turtleneck and need to complain. About money. About women in the workplace. Pretty much about everything.

Naturally, the not-too-nerdy, none-too-cool doctor is called into Mojave territory to investigate the plague of snake-related deaths that has been mildly irritating the American northwest. Chew gets a love interest in what I assume was meant to be a spunky, feminist photographer who introduces herself by pointing out that it's the 70s and women should be treated as equals. To prove it, she waits to sleep with the obnoxious Chew until after their dating montage, a dull two minutes scored with bad flute music and involving silhouettes at a water fountain.

Somewhere down the line, the military gets involved, as does a bitter divorcee and an unlucky plumber. While it's a nice relief to see real live animals that aren't pixelated by a Mac, the snakes are rarely filmed in the same shot as any actor, leaving you little to fear and lots of disappointment upon the realization that these terrible actors never had to face any real live difficulties. Well, I guess uttering dialogue like "That's not just a cart. It's a security blanket on wheels" is something I would only wish on a mildly irritating enemy.

Still, for all its potential and a super teasing tagline--What a Horrible Way to Die!--Rattlers is a major snooze.

Low Points
When a character introduces himself as having a beautiful wife, two kids, a new house, and one payment away from owning his boat, he has no right to survive a horror movie. He does.

Just because you have a man and woman sharing scenes together does not mean you have romantic chemistry

The general score sounds like, as the French revolutionary in the South Park movie would say, ‘zee sound of a dying giraffe’

High Points
A snakebite survivor has a nice little speech about his escape...if only it were delivered by a competent actor


Lessons Learned
If you 're a fairly good-looking woman, army officials will tell you classified information

Coffee is not a drink

Plumbing is a dangerous profession

Snakes not only bite, they also push people off ladders and set fire to their barns.

Nothing ends a life-threatening escapade with killer snakes and psychotic army generals better than the promise of a 7 course dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

Winning Line

“Birds under a lot of stress eat more. In human terms, they get fat.” Aw, you sure do have to use simple words in explaining science to the university janitor.

Bury in a deep pit and throw some dead rattlesnakes on top. That’s pretty much how the special FX were run in this film, so it’s only appropriate. Not bad enough to be so-bad-it’s-good and nowhere near good enough to be, well, mildly good.

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