I think maybe this SyFy Channel movie’s original title was “Snake, Man” because while there are snakes and men in it, there’s no one thing that could be called both. They just edited the pot references out and sold it to SyFy!
Alright, maybe not. But when a film is as dumb as this you need to try and entertain yourself somehow, and if that means trying to make a joke about the title, so be it. So, anyway, a group of scientists goes into the jungle to find a particular flower that grants extreme long life, only to become hunted by the giant anacondas that live there…oh, I’m so sorry! That’s the recap of “Anaconda 2”, released the year before this. What a mistake that was! On to the recap of “SnakeMan” – a group of scientists goes into the jungle to find the secret to extreme longevity, and are hunted by the giant snake creature that lives there.
Nailed it! Yes, dear reader, this genuinely feels like a writer sold the same script twice, and I’d be astonished if some legal documents weren’t exchanged when the producers of “Anaconda 2” saw this roll off the production line. Saying that, parts 3 and 4 of the “Anaconda” franchise (as well as the crossover with “Lake Placid”) are all SyFy Channel original movies, so maybe that was the deal they reached.
The gist of all this is, a bloke who looks like a young Rob Reiner digs up a stone crypt, and in it is a well-preserved corpse. Turns out, the corpse was 300 years old when he died, so his corporation is interested in knowing the secret to this. The press conference is amazing, with a bunch of journos uncritically accepting everything they’re told and just straight-up cheering at the end. Anyway, to find that secret, they send out a bunch of nicely multi-ethnic scientists (don’t worry, I won’t burden you with most of their names, partly because I’m lazy, partly because most of them are just cannon fodder), led by douchebag Dr Rick Gordon (“That Guy” actor Larry Day) and smart / sensible Dr Susan Elters (Jayne Heitmeyer). Rounding things out are the head of the corporation Dr John Simon (another “That Guy”, Gary Hudson), and their jungle guide, Matt Ford (Steven Baldwin).
Every time I see Steven Baldwin in anything, my first thought is “how did this guy get the job in The Usual Suspects?” He’s a pretty terrible actor, and his recent conversion to fundamentalist Christianity (which merely manifests in his character wearing a gigantic cross which is never commented on) hasn’t improved things. He sort of tries to be the cool guide, obvious love interest to Elters, but his entire character falls flat, and he spends most of his time as her sidekick as she does all the important stuff. Talking of her, Jayne Heitmeyer is great in this, totally believable and great to watch develop. Also, she was in her early 40s when she filmed this and could have easily passed for 30 – good work, genetics! She was in “Earth: Final Conflict”, which I never watched, and was a regular in other less popular genre TV shows; I’d honestly never heard of her before yesterday but you might encounter a few reviews of her movies coming up soon.
As they meet two different tribes in the jungle – the friendly guys with whiskers on their faces; and the initially less friendly guys who worship the snake and wear snakeskin loincloths; they discover that the Snake is killing people due to the removal of the corpse at the beginning of the movie (although see if you can figure out the ending, which doesn’t feature the return of said corpse); and discover that the snake-tribe has a plastic surgeon on hand, because some of their women are obviously models with body-parts that defy gravity. Apparently, snakeskin makes great bras, too.
A word about the snake. You could watch it in any of four or five different scenes and not have the most basic information about it. How long is it? How heavy? How many heads does it have? At the beginning, we only see one, then there’s a scene where we see three, and the IMDB commenters seem divided on whether it has five or seven (we see five in most scenes, but the statues to worship it – cheap looking concrete statues, in the middle of the jungle – have seven). Also, how bloody big is this snake? It eats people whole, regularly, and a person in its mouth is roughly equivalent in size to a human eating a cherry tomato. Hundreds of feet long, at least? Yet it sneaks up on everyone, and is able to navigate through the tops of trees to get a jump on its human prey. How heavy must a massive snake, hundreds of feet long, weigh? Okay, I appreciate this is a SyFy Channel effort, and they didn’t have money to throw around, but surely someone would have gone “er, this stealth thing feels like a problem, guys”.
So, after tricking the villagers with a bit of sophistry, and drawing Dr Simon and his goons to the jungle, we’re on for a showdown of sorts. There’s the completely unbelievable yet inevitable romance between the two leads, despite them having negative levels of chemistry; there’s the whole “we have to stop the secret from spreading to the outside world” ending, blah blah blah. It’s really dumb.
On the very remote that SyFy repeat this, go and change the channel immediately. They’ve made a few great pieces of entertainment, but this is most definitely not one of them. This was the last movie from director Allan Goldstein, as well (he directed the fifth “Death Wish” instalment, as well as the diabolical Leslie Nielsen vehicle “2001: A Space Travesty”); producers Nu Image would go on to “The Expendables” and “Olympus Has Fallen”, so at least someone succeeded.
Rating: thumbs down