Friday, May 22, 2009

It's An Homage?...

Today a screener landed on my desk for a movie that, while once called Recoil, has been aptly re-titled, Silent Venom. From the DVD cover (yes, it-- of course-- went straight to DVD), it appears to be Snakes on a Plane but set on some sort of secret Army island (ala Lost). The plot centers on a rebel Army captain who has put in for his retirement but is given one last gig before his send-off; he must lead a team to this island, where the reptiles are growing at alarming (and violent!) rates, to "rescue" the two scientists stuck there. The "mother" ran off somewhere on the island and is nowhere to be found (and God-- well, and the audience from the first ten-- only knows how big she has gotten!), and researchers are disappearing. Apparently the Chinese may have dumped some chemicals in the water around the island, creating these angry mutants, and though scientists have sent up a rinky-dink Dharma Initiative camp to study them...they don't seem to have gotten anywhere.

The movie, from the opening big block white credits, to the indicating "Tell me what really went on there, son" in order to get a character's backstory, to the drums-and-horns military score, screams Made in the 80s! Silent Venom does not belong on DVD (or cable networks/VOD) in 2009 but instead on a scratchy old VHS tape dug out from my childhood boxes. Hell, it even stars once teen idol Luke Perry playing to type as that rebel Army captain (though I can admit "rebel" and "Army" are bit contradictory)! Now, I have been told it is indicative of the sci-fi b-movie/campy genre to look that way, but I laughed in places I probably shouldn't have...like when everyone kept referencing the Army when wearing hats/uniforms that said Navy...and when the creature was revealed in what appeared to be an early draft of a Jurassic Park villain.

I just feel like a monster movie, of any caliber, can't be scary (or taken even a little seriously) if the image of the monster does not evoke some sort of shock and awe feeling in the audience-- and the shock of "That's it?" does not count. Yes, snakes can cause the squeamish to shudder no matter what they look like, but for everyone else, do we really need another "Snakes? Why did it have to be snakes?"- esque tag? It's too many laughs and not enough gasps.

The rest of the movie, which was shot through a sand filter, apparently, does nothing to elicit anything new, either. In fact, I can't help but feel I've heard the whole "we must destroy the snakes before we go so they don't harm anyone...but really I'm going to smuggle them onto the sub with us so I can make a fortune off them back on the mainland" angle before. Silent Venom may have "updated" a bit by making a weak "No snakes left behind" joke, but let's face it, even that is yesterday's news now. I know greed is one of few universal motivations, but come on now! Or maybe it is just because Silent Venom has Krista Allen leading the cast that it feels like just an long overdue sequel to The Haunted Sea...

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