Starring Michael Shanks, Siri Baruc, John T. Woods, Matthew “Feedback” Atherton
Directed by Tibor Takacs
I know it probably seems redundant to call a Sci-Fi Channel original movie “inane” but inane really is the only word that instantly springs to mind when trying to sum up Mega Snake. Someone desperately needs to explain to some of writers of these Sci-Fi movies that there’s a huge difference between making a movie that’s intentionally campy and making one that’s just plain asinine. For all I know it’s the Sci-Fi execs mandating the screenwriters tailor their scripts so, but eventually they’re going to realize that being campy and being insultingly stupid are too entirely different things and it’s kind of hard to have fun when a movie is going out of its way to insult your intelligence.
And contrary to the accompanying artwork, the snake does not grow to Godzilla-sized proportions, attack a city, or battle fighter jets. A pity given that the monster snake’s CGI is pretty good for a Sci-Fi Channel movie. It’s still a really freakin’ big snake that somehow manages to go unnoticed by most until it’s too late for them, such as during the carnival-setting finale where people along the crowded fairway often fail to notice there’s a giant snake slithering amongst them until the last second.
“Stargate SG-1″ star Michael Shanks plays snake-phobic paramedic Lester, who also has phobias about commitment and growing up, as evidenced by his strained relationship with girlfriend Ranger Erin. He may have spent his entire life living in East Tennessee (AKA filmed on location in Bulgaria) with his family of Christian snake-handlers, but after dad died from a snake bite when he was a boy, Les grew up with a newfound fear of slithery serpents that his family blames on his lack of faith.
Les’ brother Duff needs to acquire some new snakes for the church so he seeks out local Native American tattoo artist and all-purpose snake dealer Screaming Hawk, who is played by a guy that I swear to God looks like a white George Lopez. Duff enquires about a mysterious jar containing a snake in Screaming Hawk’s black market serpent den that leads to the biker Indian telling him all about Anteka (or something that sounds like that), a species of highly dangerous, fast-growing, potentially supernatural snake that once terrorized his Cherokee ancestors until they wiped out all but this last one in the jar. When asked why he’d keep such a thing alive in a jar if its so dangerous, the Screaming Hawk tells him that keeping one alive is considered a source of pride and power amongst his people; this despite every other word out of his mouth on the topic involving declarations of the creature being a murderous abomination from the netherworld.
It turns out that this accursed creature also comes with three rules – just like a Mogwai from Gremlins.
Now Duff may be a god-fearing Christian but it turns out he isn’t above stealing. When Screaming Hawk turns down his offer to buy the unholy snake, Duff decides to break the 8th commandment. Unfortunately, he then wastes no time breaking the jar. The snake then proceeds to eat a kitten, some chickens, and an old lady’s thumb. That’s two rules down and we’re not even 15-minutes into the movie yet.
Duff will then get eaten, Les will get suspected of murdering his family (and chickens), and the demon snake will continue to eat and grow and eat (men, women, children, and hillbillies all fall prey) until the climactic showdown with the snake inside the carnival haunted house where Les is finally able to not fear the heart of the serpent.
Director Tibor Takacs (Mansquito, Ice Spiders) is a firm hand at directing this sort of thing and knows how to keep even the flimsiest of material moving along at a relatively breezy pace, but at least with Mansquito and Ice Spiders he had scripts that gave him something to play with. By the time we got to the scene where the disbelieving town mayor flatly refuses to cancel the big county fair over threat of a killer animal on the loose it became quite apparent how little imagination had gone into crafting the story. Mega Snake isn’t an actual movie, folks. This is merely sausage from the Sci-Fi Channel meat plant.
Canadian born Michael Shanks freely admitted at a fan convention recently that he agreed to do this film without ever even having read the script solely because he needed to obtain a new US work visa. I think Shanks already starred in this movie anyway, only last time it was called Swarmed and dealt with mutant wasps on the loose. Then again, that mutant wasp movie didn’t have everyone talking with fake hick accents like the one Shanks himself can’t keep from coming and going.
To be fair, everyone seems acutely aware what kind of movie they’re appearing in and ham it up appropriately, and you really can’t fault actors when they’re saddled with dialogue this lame that they’re required to deliver with Southern accents so comically phony. Fault once again lies with the clichéd writing.
Matters of faith in regards to snake-handling, the lead character’s extreme phobia of snakes, the mystical Native American origins of the monster snake: all concepts that are introduced but never built upon. Instead Mega Snake plays out like every snake flick the Sci-Fi Channel has ever aired with people getting picked off at random and a whole lot of trotting about the woods. Only thing this one adds to the mix is an extra added layer of bad Southern stereotypes and a lamebrained soap opera subplot between Les, Erin, the dorky town sheriff Erin dates to make Les jealous, and the blonde paramedic with the hots for Les that makes Erin jealous. All of which is set to a “Dukes of Hazzard” score that occasionally erupts into heavy metal riffs when the snake attack.
Despite some isolated moments of worthwhile nature gone amok carnage, Mega Snake is more of a mega turkey.
I’d be remiss not to mention that Mega Snake also holds special regards for featuring the screen debut of Feedback, the winner of the first season of the Sci-Fi Channel “reality” competition show “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” The winner of that reality program — that many people, including myself, believe to have been a scripted fraud — was to get a comic book based on their superhero creation to be penned by Stan Lee and a guarantee of their own Sci-Fi Channel original movie. Well, it turns out the “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” winner’s cinematic reward was merely getting a two-minute cameo that feels like it was totally shoehorned into one of Sci-Fi’s typical Saturday night originals at the request of the network with little thought put into it what to do with him. Feedback makes a brief appearance during the carnival climax as his non-superpowered self giving an audience of kids a brief lecture about electrical safety like he’s Slim Goodbody or something before briefly tussling with the title monster for about 15-seconds. His dialog and physical mannerisms left me wondering if the whole thing wasn’t intentionally designed to make him look like a complete joke, a spastic tard in a blue jumpsuit. And like Hulk Hogan in No Holds Barred, Matthew Atherton, the professional actor who plays the character of Feedback, proves incapable of even convincingly playing himself on film. From hero to zero in two minutes flat!
1 1/2 out of 5
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