SnakeMan (2005)
By: Lauren Monaghan on February 12, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Ninth Dimension (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 97 minutes
The Movie
Director: Allan A. Goldstein
Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Jayne Heitmeyer, Larry Day, Gary Hudson
Screenplay: Declan O'Brien, Allan A. Goldstein
Country: USA
AKA: The Snake King
SnakeMan is a movie full of mixed messages. One minute it wants you to frolic in its frivolity – that's it, go ahead and laugh at the recently dismembered man as he shrieks like a girl and squirts blood in all directions. And look! That guy over there manically pulling his own guts out, he's pretty funny right? But then it also wants you to take its dragging in-between moments seriously, no matter that your eyelids are drooping and your mind is wandering to that time when you watched Bio-Dome and swore never to see a Stephen Baldwin movie again. And yet stupidly here you are.

Though Baldwin's acting talents may not have improved over the years, at least his taste in co-stars has. Back in 1996 it was with the likes of Pauly Shore and Kylie Minogue that he shared screen time. Thankfully in 2005's SnakeMan there are only a few pot-bellied natives, an ageing sci-fi hottie (Jayne Heitmeyer) and a giant, multi-headed serpent creature to deal with instead.

The plot here is fairly straight forward, if not a bit familiar. The body of an ancient Amazon man, now in sore need of some moisturising lotion, is uncovered by a team of researchers. Back in America the petrified corpse is quite literally ooh-ed and ahh-ed over before the big reveal, that at the time of his death the man was amazingly over 300 years old. Hoping to uncover the ancient man's Secret of Eternal Youth™, a team will now be sent deep into the jungle of Brazil to track down the Lost Tribe of Direct Descendants®, dollar signs and Nobel Prize medallions no doubt dancing in their heads. What they uncover instead is an ass load of trouble.

Stranded after a dramatic helicopter crash, the team are at the mercy of a jungle inhabited by warring native tribes and a pesky carnivorous snake god. As it turns out, the shrivelled Amazon man belonged to the tribe of the Snake People, whose unappealing secret to longevity lies not in genetics, but in both a dirty pool of magical water and the continued pacification of their giant snake overlord. Eventually those members of the team not already comically ripped to shreds by the beast come to be hostages of the Snake People, and are only to be released upon the return of the old man's remains.

Will our protagonists manage to survive with all their body parts intact? Will Stephen Baldwin and his plucky female companion really find true love at the end of this ordeal? Will you be able to get through this movie even once without falling asleep? Probably not.

It's a shame that overall this movie is such a bore, because it really has some shining moments – moments where the blood is spattering and the bad CGI is being comically played up and you think to yourself 'now this is what a giant-snake-terrorising-people-in-the-jungle type of movie should be all about'.

From the outset you can see that the film has a sense of humour, and at times even a sense of self awareness that screams yeah, Baldwin's haircut cost more than all the special effects used here combined, but we like it that way. There are happily indulged clichés, hokey set ups, helpless monkeys being eaten... even the camera has fun, making whiplash-giving pans and super-close zooms almost willy-nilly. But after a while, whenever the giant snake isn't in frame or giving us a green washed point of view experience, it feels like an entirely different movie is playing out on screen, one that is rather slow-paced and entirely too serious for its own good. Even the pitting of guys with bows and arrows against muscle men with guns and bazookas feels uninspired and unexciting without the silliness of the serpent king slithering around, screeching like a pterodactyl in heat.
The 1.78:1, 16:9 enhanced presentation of SnakeMan is… serviceable. It's not an overly bright film, and with much of the action taking place in the shade or semi-darkness, the picture at times looks a little dull.
As with the video, the film's 2.0 Dolby Stereo treatment is nothing to write home about. It could be a little crisper, but it'll do.
Extra Features
Just three little trailers (and the kind that play automatically without you having asked them to): The Tenants, The Wicker Man and Gridiron Gang.
The Verdict
SnakeMan is just a confusing movie, emotionally. First it endears itself to you with the promise of fun things to come: a few severed body parts, a kooky bunch of ancient tribal people, a ginormous snake monster that's actually supposed to be humorous. But then it gets bogged down with non-snake related things, like showcasing the many serious acting faces of Stephen Baldwin and developing an actual storyline, however unoriginal, and things go belly-up. And then the snake is back and it's eating people and all is fun again! But then it slithers away and we're back to being bored. Give it a watch for the few moments of gleeful people-munching craziness it provides, but don't be afraid to have the fast-forward button ready to go.
Movie Score
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