Snake King (2005)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Stephen Baldwin, Jane Heitmeyer, Gary Hudson, Ross McCall, and Lucas Wilbur Silva Laborda
Directed by Allan A. Goldstein
Someone at Nu Image must have thought making a movie about a giant, five-headed snake would make for a kick ass monster movie. It probably could have if it hadn’t been for the fact that the giant, five-headed snake is so huge that we generally only see one, two, or three heads on the screen at any given time. That is until the climax of the movie when all five are finally shown, albeit briefly, and even then you never really get a full body view of the creature to figure out how everything is interconnected. The movie establishes that the snake has a tail so they can’t use the excuse of it having heads at both ends. I want to know where the hell the fourth and fifth heads disappeared to for the first three quarters of the movie. Were they on a smoke break? Were they given conscientious objector status for refusing to take part in the killing if innocent people? Were they off auditioning for a role in Python 3? Give me a break!
Oh, but wait, there are still more problems with the giant, five-headed snake. Despite the fact that it appears to be big enough to give King Kong a heck of a fight, this gargantuan multi-headed snake is still able to hide undetected in the jungle brush until it’s too late. The noise it makes when slithering through the jungle is minimal and keep in mind we are talking about an enormous monster with five-heads, each at least the size of an automobile. If it wasn’t constantly roaring (This snake doesn’t hiss. It roars.), then it would barely generate any noise at all. People are constantly running away before coming to a stop and looking up just in time for one of the heads to lurch down and nab them. Despite being gigantic it still consistently managed to not only move around unseen, it actually sneaks up on people. Come on already!
And if that wasn’t enough, there are some serious continuity issues regarding the giant, five-headed snakes’ size. It appears to suffer from Deep Star Six syndrome, and by that I mean its size changes depending on what is required of it in the scene. This is highlighted in the climax set inside its lair where it seems to shrink and enlarge at random. Each head is the size of an automobile and its cave entrance only appears big enough to fit one head and neck at a time so we don’t even get an explanation of how the thing even manages to get inside this cave chamber to begin with. Hell, at one point, the damn thing even manages to hide underwater in a small river just waiting to spring out and surprise someone. Sheesh!
Worst of all, the CGI used to bring the giant, five-headed snake is some of the least convincing I’ve ever seen in a Sci-Fi Channel movie, and believe me, that is really saying something. The guy that helped me grab these stills spent the whole time voicing his disdain for the awful computer effects.
The fact that the monster turned out to be such a disaster is kind of a good thing because I’d hate to see another cool movie monster wasted on a production as lame as Snake King, the latest Nu Image production to debut on the Sci-Fi Channel.
The basic premise is that anthropologists deep in the Amazon have discovered the remains of a man they determine was about 300-years old when he died. This leads to a second expedition but there’s a major problem in the form of a giant, five-headed snake named Naga (Whose horned heads make it look less like a snake and more like a body-less, poorly computer generated Ghidrah, the three-headed monster.) that is killing everybody on the expedition. There is also a secondary problem in the form of an unknown Amazonian tribe known as the "snake people" that worship Naga, keep it fed, and use it to protect their secret of eternal youth. This tribe is particularly ticked off because that corpse the white folks took was of one of their ancestors. Still, they mostly just put on tribal dance recitals while Naga does all the dirty work.
I have to pause here for a moment and say a few words about the look of these Amazonian tribes. The "snake people" look, for the most part, like your typical rainforest natives. Well, expect for the fact that the women all look like Brazilian swimsuit models and some of the warriors run around with this bizarre headdress that makes it look like they worship George Clinton. There are times when they are pursuing people through the jungle and it looks like these people are being chased by a bunch of half-naked Cousin It’s.
The "snake people" still look better than the other tribe, who must be the "cat people" because the make-up crew gave them whiskers. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but there was just something really fruity about this tribe’s look. I remember reading an article about Snake King sometime back that quoted someone involved in the production that said the make-up people essentially invented the tribal make-up on the fly and the actors made up the language they speak in the movie. That’s just great; a bunch of people running around the jungle speaking gibberish while looking like the cast of an Amazon basin production of Cabaret.
So anyway, these anthropologists, who are, of course, bankrolled by an evil rich conglomerate, head down to the deepest, darkest Amazon by way of a helicopter flown by local American Stephen Baldwin. Lightning strikes the copter forcing them to crash land, so now they have to trek to the rendezvous point only to be hunted down and killed by three heads of a giant, five-headed snake, except for the ones that get taken hostage by the "snake people", who are willing to spare their lives in exchange for the return of the corpse they took.
By the time the movie reached its third act and the evil corporate bad guy himself showed up with his evil corporate commandos I was already quite bored with this mess. The only highlight of the finale is seeing the bad guy get ripped apart as all five snake heads team up to rip his limbs off then toss the stump to the ground where it lands in an upright position and proceeds to scream wildly in a manner not all that dissimilar to Dracula after getting his arm ripped off at the end of Dracula 3000.
Snake King is one of those movies so formulaic it very easily could have been written by an automated screenwriting program. You got the good guy male lead that knows his way around these parts, you got the female lead that ends up becoming his love interest, you got the bad guys that all eventually end up getting killed one way or another, and everyone else is just snake fodder. It’s all done in such a lifeless manner that it manages to fail as either a monster movie or a jungle adventure.
It doesn’t even deliver much by way of unintentional humor, although it does have a few such moments like when Stephen Baldwin points out an Amazonian tribal by-law to help get them a chance to see the proverbial fountain of youth. Or the fact that this tribal chief speaks English even though the "snake people" tribe is so far removed from the outside world that their immune systems cannot handle catching even the common cold from their white outsider captives, which leads to a ridiculous subplot where they have to save the life of a child that is dying after catching the female lead’s cold.
Oh, let’s not forget that we often get Naga’s point of view presented in the form of what I can only describe as psychedelic spinach vision. Monster P.O.V. shots are nothing new in movies like this but often times the director didn’t take into account basic things like distance. There were several monster P.O.V. shots that would indicate that one of the snake’s heads was about three feet directly behind the person it was watching and yet they didn’t see or hear anything.
Personally, I wish they had just shot the entire movie in psychedelic spinach vision. It certainly wouldn’t have made things any worse.
Discuss Snake King in our forums!