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"The Dukes Of Hazzard" Meets "Wild Kingdom"
on May 19, 2009
"Megasnake" is a truly awful film even by the standards of the Sci Fi Channel. The film opens in a backwater church where parishioners are in the throes of snake handling. A family is there, and one son is particularly affected when his father gets bitten but refuses medical treatment. ("Have faith!") Since they don't call a doctor the dad dies, casting a shadow across the Daniels family. Twenty years later the scars still run deep with one brother (Les, the smart one, played by Michael Shanks) abhorring snakes while the other (Duff, the not so smart one, played by John T. Woods) still handles them. The tensions are never far from the surface though ("If prayin' couldn't save Daddy, maybe a little medicine could've!") and only their mother can stop the squabbling.
The dumb brother goes into town to see an Indian named "Screamin' Hawk" (Ben Cardinal) to buy the poisonous "Carolina Pigmy Snake," (presumably the Carolina Pigmy Rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius miliarius) but quickly finds something more to his liking, a snake described by the Indian as uber-ravenous and the most deadly snake on earth. Duff is there allegedly buying the snakes for his local Church of Christ (a church, by the way, that does not handle snakes) but when the Indian refuses to sell him the baddest of the bad, he steals it.
The Indian says that the snake has three rules, the first of which is "never let it out of the jar." I'm sure you are surprised that the first thing that happens when he gets it home is that it gets let out of the jar, and instantly starts growing through the magic of fantastically bad CGI. The snake escapes. A kitten is the first victim, the chickens next, and it moves quickly on to Mom. There is a lot of bogus science about snake regurgitation, and after hunting the snake, Duff kills it with a crowbar and buries it. I was hoping this was the end of the movie. Unfortunately I was only about a third of the way into it.
There's a ludicrous romance subplot involving two cops and Les in the least likely love triangle in recent movie history. Problems and symptoms that emerge include the old hackneyed standbys of the inability to commit, the Vietnam war, an extremely lame bar fight, and a murder charge. Fortunately when all the romance drama is just about to lull you to sleep, a thunderstorm comes along, lightning strikes the snake's burial mound, and he comes back to life whereupon he immediately eats twenty goats and the stupid brother in a ridiculous drooling chompfest.
The new boyfriend cop, Big Bo (Todd Jensen,) who has the IQ of asphalt, is jealous of Les, who used to date his now-girlfriend Erin, so he arrests him for killing his brother. Unfortunately for Big Bo, the killing continues as megasnake goes on a picnic, a picnic where Dad is heroic and Mom is completely ineffectual. At this point Erin (Siri Baruc,) the cop reveals that she has a Ph.D. in Zoology (!) and thinks the problem is a giant snake. It doesn't trouble her in the least that it would have to be sixty feet long to do what she thinks it's doing, she just knows.
I'm afraid to report what happens next. If any of you happen to have seen "Jaws," feel free to fast forward through the next talky part of the movie. Mayor Artimus Kornferry arrives and asks Big Bo if he needs help. He says no, it's all under control. Erin recommends canceling the county fair tomorrow, and the mayor, of course, says no on social and economic grounds. What could possibly go wrong?
The snake sheds its skin as it grows, so Big Bo and a couple of deputies take off on a hunting expedition. It isn't long before the other two cops get eaten and Bo gets his arm bitten off. Bo manages to stagger to a cabin where two rednecks (one with a Confederate Civil War hat on) join the fracas as Bo dies. ("He's dead?"..."Extremely.") Erin and Les pursue the snake more intelligently: they go find Screamin' Hawk and ask him how to kill it. He gives them a very longwinded mystical answer about how you have to kill it from the inside. Meanwhile the two rednecks are hunting the snake using loud country music, a pickup truck, a flamethrower, and a grill. As it turns out, this is an unsuccessful strategy. It also turns out that the snake is a constrictor.
Screamin' Hawk really wants to kill the snake, and along with Erin and Les, they track it to (where else?) the county fair, which is full of townsfolk. By far my favorite moment in the film comes when a young stoner sees the snake, holds out his bag of pot, and says "Here, kitty, kitty." Brilliant! The fair is in the middle of nowhere, and the snake begins his assault by attacking the roller coaster, before moving on to a live stage show on the dangers of electricity. (Really.) The fair is totally destroyed, and while selflessly saving a child Erin is swallowed by the snake. Les, her true love, can still hear her via her walkie talkie and knows he must save her. Screamin' Hawk is injured by the snake, so is ineligible to get swallowed (?) leaving it up to Les, the one so scared of snakes, to get swallowed ("Do not fear the heart of the snake....") Sure enough, he gets swallowed, stabs the snake's heart from inside the snake, then cuts a way out of the side of the snake for himself and Erin. The next scene is presumably about nine months later, as Les and Erin stand on their porch with their newborn as the movie closes. And there was much rejoicing.
This film was made on location in Sofia, Bulgaria, and should have stayed there, although I suppose the Bulgarians suffered enough under communism. Michael Shanks as Les was by far the best actor in the film, and Ben Cardinal did well as a Native American, but no amount of thespian expertise could save this pile. "Megasnake" has awful effects, a ludicrous and wooden script, and is amateurish even by the standards of made for TV horror movies. While I enjoy camp classics that are so bad they're good, this is just plain bad.