Thursday, September 21, 2017

Serpent (2017)








DIRECTOR:
 Amanda Evans

WRITER: Amanda Evans

CAST:

Tom Ainsley
Sarah Dumont
Skye Russell

PLOT:

Adam and Gwynneth are a young married couple who are currently getting through a rough patch due to her infidelity. Trying to rekindle their marriage, Gwynneth decides to tag along with Adam who is heading to a place known as Suicide Gorge in hopes of finding a rare beetle. While sleeping in their tent, they awake to discover that a Black Mamba has entered their domain overnight. The couple now needs to escape without upsetting the venomous snake if they plan on surviving their romantic getaway.







When I first came across Serpent, I was under the impression that I was about to sit through a story about a killer snake. Not seeing the trailer, or even knowing anything about the film. I was only going off of the premise on IMDb. I immediately sat down to watch this in the hopes that I'd see this couple terrorised by a venomous snake. I thought that I'd see something in the vein of Sssssss (1973) or Venom (1981). This movie is something else entirely. I'm just not sure if it's very good.


I am all for a movie that does something different with a well-worn premise. I'm also here for a story that takes its time in building to something. I also enjoy a slow-burn as much as the next man. What we have here, though, is a movie that contains two subplots that come colliding together at around the midway point. It's just a shame that neither of them ever really feel as engaging as I assume the filmmaker intends them to be. I think this commits the cardinal sin of just being boring.

The element of the movie that I actually enjoyed is the marriage problems, infidelity, and trust issues. I think these added more tension and uncomfortableness than any of the scenes involving the Black Mamba snake. Right from the very beginning, we, the audience are aware that there is a rift happening between this couple. She's still receiving messages from the man she cheated on her husband with. The signals he is sending her are getting increasingly hostile. This provides us with this looming dread that Adam may find the messages.

Once the snake manages to slither into the tent, I think this is where it lost me. For the rest of the movie, we watch a couple trying to stay perfectly still, in hopes of not altering the snake to their presence. They also try to come up with ways of trying to escape or trap the snake. It's just a shame that a lot of their choices end up feeling like stupid character decisions. I am sure the writer did research and even spoke to snake experts on ways to survive a Black Mamba if it got into your tent. I just didn't find these moments very suspenseful.

Beyond the infidelity issues and the poisonous snake. I think there are some broader themes that hide beneath the surface of this film. I'm not very religious, and I'm not even sure if the director is herself. We have a man by the name of Adam, and his wife has tasted the forbidden fruit, so to speak. The imagery of the snake also plays a big part. I feel that the director was trying to be deep and provide an allegory on religion. This is what I meant when I said that I thought this was something else entirely and not just a killer snake movie.

I have to hand it to the filmmaker and actors if the stories about the production are true that the actors acted alongside real snakes. I think if that is true, that's pretty damn brave of them. For a lot of the tent scenes, the snake next to the actors looks pretty real. While we have moments where the snake is clearly computer generated. The tent scenes look really well done. Minus the few moments of silliness where the snake sort of flies towards the actors and bites them in the water. I think it looked really good here.

The cinematography in Serpent also looks quite beautiful. I think with this film being filmed in South Africa, it has a completely different look to what I assumed would be a US production. The South African scenes never feel more evident than the ones at the beginning of the film when the couple is leaving the city. Once we get to Suicide Gorge, we have a lot of sprawling nature shots. I think the director has managed to capture this sort of jungle paradise in a beautiful light. I'm sure National Geographic would be pleased with it.

Lastly, we come to the performances. I think the actors did the most with what they are given here. Tom Ainsley was the standout for me. It doesn't hurt that the actor's incredibly handsome and spends a lot of the time shirtless. I think he portrayed that scorned husband well. I believe that Sarah Dumont has the most to recover from as we immediately dislike her character due to her cheating on him. I think by the end, they manage to have this sort of redemption story for her role.







DEATH TOLL:
 0

BLOOD AND GORE:

- We see a vision of a man dead in a tent.
- A snake is repeatedly stabbed.
- A woman is bitten by a snake.
- A snake is bashed to death with a rock.
- Beetles crawl inside an open wound.







Serpent feels like two different films all rolled into one. A drama about a crumbling marriage that slowly descends into a story about a couple who are trapped in a tent with a killer snake. At first, I wanted to give this a lower rating but felt that with the themes of religion, the tension between the couple, and the cinematography. It tries to set itself apart from other 'animal attack' movies. What brings the story down, all falls back on the pacing, some of the dialogue, and some dodgy CGI scenes involving the snake. Worth a once-off watch if you want something different.
 


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