DECEMBER 13, 2010
It sounds odd to say, but one of the biggest problems in Vipers is that there are too many people for the snakes to eat. I’m all for numerous death scenes, but not so much for introducing each victim and giving them a set of problems, which just cuts into the action, not to mention prevents the ACTUAL main characters from getting some much needed development so that you can give a wee shit about them.
Plus it’s just way too soap opera-y with regards to who is involved with who. I mean, check this out: Mercedes McNab plays Georgie, who is with a guy named Jack, who used to be married to (and has a daughter with) Ellie, who is now with Hendricks, the town’s one cop who harbors a lifelong crush on Nicky (Tara Reid), who just lost her fiancé Joey in the war, and he was the best friend of Cal, who just arrived in town to work with Dr. Silverton (the late Don Davis). So you get long, snake-less scenes of these yahoos whining about who still loves who or who resents them because of it, with accompanying ridiculous dialogue like “We were engaged, and I let him go off to the war because I was afraid to get married, and now he’s dead and I never told him I loved him!” Wait, so this guy was with you long enough for him to ask you to marry him, and said his goodbyes when going off to war, and in all that time you never said “I love you”?
And even though the above are plenty for a small-town killer snake movie, there are still plenty of other characters along for the ride. We have Armageddon’s Jessica Steen (playing Dr. Collins! Surely an intentional homage to me) as a scientist from the lab where the killer snakes were created (their venom can cure cancer, apparently), Corbin Bernsen as the evil head of the lab, a “fixer” type guy and a few army dudes who come to the town with the intent of wiping it off the map, the aforementioned daughter, an old townie.... not to mention a dozen or so (thankfully nameless) locals who stand around going “yeah!” and “come on!” and such whenever one of the other characters puts a plan in motion (most of them die in a single, hilarious scene where they try to make a run for it). It’s fine if you’re doing a 6 hour Stephen King adaptation, but not in a 90 minute SyFy original movie.
It also seems at times like the screenwriter was drawing too much from his own experiences. Maybe his best friend really did die in the war, maybe he eventually hooked up with said friend’s ex (OK, maybe he was just watching Pearl Harbor), and maybe they too played a game where one names a band’s album and you have to name every song from it. And the album they pick is Pink Floyd’s "The Final Cut", which I like but most PF fans (and the band members themselves) hate, so it’s a very odd choice, and again reeks of a personal in-joke. Wouldn’t "Dark Side of the Moon" be a more traditional, identifiable choice? I almost suspect he wrote this personal drama about how a small town was torn apart by the death of one of its residents in the war, and then some producers were like “No, we want killer snakes! Fix it!” and he just sort of glued the two stories together.
He makes up for it with award worthy bad dialogue though. I already mentioned the “I love you” thing, but there’s also a scene where someone mentions Homeland Security, to which Reid replies “This isn’t terrorism, these are snakes!” I also loved the bit early on when a little kid gets bit and Cal comes to his rescue, aided by Reid. Cal puts the kid on a four wheeler driven by Reid, and someone offscreen goes “You’re in good hands!” Um, a dangerous vehicle driven by one of the dimmest actresses of all time is hardly “good hands”, sir. There are also some peculiar voiceover lines, like when we see Cal and Maggie run in opposite directions, then we hear him say “Maggie stick with me!” over a shot of someone else entirely, and never see those two again in the scene. Why stick that in?
But it at least offers plenty of killer snake action. The movie wastes almost no time getting started (Oh yeah! I forgot about the camping couple who also discuss their relationship for a while before finally getting killed), and the pace remains fairly brisk throughout, never slowing things down too much. The effects aren’t that great, but they are better than most Syfy premieres, so that’s to be commended, I guess. I also liked how violent the snakes were – they don’t just bite, they fucking EAT people (they’re only normal sized garden snakes). McNab in particular gets most of her torso eaten away, an effect the filmmakers obviously enjoyed since they keep randomly cutting to it before Jack finally comes out of the bathroom and finds her dead (he didn’t hear her screams because he was enjoying a post-sex shower). It’s also sort of bold that BOTH of Maggie’s parents end up snake food, and even more bold that Davis creepily asks her to "keep him company" (and then winks at the others!) at the end of the film. Uh....
As for Reid, well, what do you expect? There’s a reason she made her name playing bimbos and ditzes. I like how she seemed unable to smile; there are a couple of scenes where she’s supposed to be flirting with Cal but I honestly couldn’t tell if she was just playing hard to get or if Reid simply forgot how to emote. Either way it adds a level of hilarity to the film. There’s a great moment where she punches another woman in the face for no real reason, however, so she can still have something to put on her reel. Acting highlights are few and far between for Ms. Reid these days, I’m afraid (she hasn’t had a theatrically released film since 2005’s Alone in The Dark – this is someone who has worked with the Coens and Robert Altman!).
Well, it’s better than Anaconda 3 or 4, and faster paced than Snakes on a Plane, so I can’t help but give it a little bit of respect. I wasn’t bored, and even though it was awkwardly shoehorned into the movie, any time someone gives “The Final Cut” some love I’m pretty happy. “Somebody SHOULD/Should we screeeeeeeeeeeeam?/What happened/to The Post-War Dream?” In short - the best Tara Reid movie in years!
What say you?