Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Snake Island | Slashers

By Steve Anderson
May 1st, 2004

Snake Island DVD

Sometimes, you can tell all you need to know about a movie within the first five minutes. And in Snake Island's case, one character's innocent snippet of dialogue is a perfect summation:

"This is Africa; things bite."

Yes, they do.

And sadly, this movie is first among them.

Snake Island comes with your choice of languages, English or Spanish, but no subtitles.

As we lurch into frame, on the middle of a small flat-bottomed boat in the best tradition of "Anaconda," we get one strange and shocking realization. "Snake Island" is going to be "Jurassic Park" with snakes. The giant sign labeling the island is a pretty dead giveaway that someone was going for theme resort.

A theme resort revolving around SNAKES, can you believe it? Who's going to GO to a theme resort revolving around snakes? Can anyone else see the population of loons, goobers and assorted dilberts that will be packing up their bags to go to SNAKE ISLAND?? The whole damn island's gonna be packed with zit-covered fifteen year old boys who couldn't get laid in a women's prison with a fistful of pardons!

Well, just about anybody with an IQ greater than that of mayonnaise is going to be able to tell you that theme park and resort set up around snakes in the middle of Africa is probably not going to be a high-dollar draw. But our characters have to make a go of it anyway, otherwise we wouldn't even have this little bit of plot to begin with.

We don't get very far downriver when we find out why the place is called "Snake Island". Snakes of every size and description suddenly drop onto the deck and writhe about, soundly freaking out all our passengers.

This is when the single stupidest moment in motion picture history breaks out.

One of our intrepid boat riders tries to kill a snake with a boathook. He swings so hard that he actually BREAKS THE CAMERA. Yes. It's true. He broke the camera lens. There's a shatter of glass across the shot. Not glass breaking in the background, or any such thing like that, but the camera used to shoot the scene was broken in the shot. I stopped the footage and advanced it back and forth FOUR TIMES at one-eighth speed.

It's the CAMERA that's broken in the shot.

Boy, nothing to help suspend disbelief like breaking the damn camera while the movie's running. Shouldn't this have been edited out? Who did the editing on this one, anyway? A goldfish?

But after we take care of that, it's time to build some tension by exploring the island, and let it off again by having a wild drunken party, giving the ladies an excuse to whip off the shirts and go nuts.

The snakes are enjoying the party, too.an animatronic one in the background is actually dancing along with the music. Yes, you heard right.the SNAKE is dancing along. Wow.how incredibly stupid.

But it gets worse from there. Most of the cast dies off by various snake attacks. The entire island getaway degenerates into a squirming, writhing mass of coils, fangs and venom. Along with three surviving humans, trying desperately to fend off the snake attack and escape with their lives. Finally managing to settle in for the night, our last surviving female lead goes off to sleep.

And that's when the snakes started singing.

And TALKING.

I'm sitting here, WATCHING. SNAKES. TALK. It turned out to be a dream, brought about by way too much adrenaline, but still. The whole "snakes singing" thing was a shot out of left field the likes of which I never want to see again.

Desperate to figure out how to get off the island, our last three characters decide to strike out for a boat off the island. But each has a different way about it, so now we've got two parties.a man in full cricket armor, and two on a lawnmower. Two on a lawnmower, and a guy running around ready for the First Annual Cricket Match In The Single Dumbest Place On Earth to Play Cricket.

And then.in one last great horrific reason why I regret watching this trash, the snake on the cover of a book ABOUT Snake Island, written by one of the last survivors, winks at me.

As an interesting little side point, let's stop and consider this. The video game industry, specifically the critical end, has coined a term for video games that are generated quickly, at low cost, to be SOLD at low cost, almost specifically as a money-making commodity. This all-too-charming term for them is "shovelware." Now, does anyone notice a parallel between the video game version of "shovelware" and the direct-to-video market? Is it ethical to create poor quality movies at low costs just for the express purpose of a quick sale? Or is this simply an acceptable cost of doing business, the occasional bad apple in every bushel? Can we allow shovel-reel filmmaking to prosper?

 

Slashers DVD

Fangoria Pictures manages to take a handful of no-name actors, a set that screams "low-budget", and put together one of the scariest movies I've seen in a while.

This is the most bizarre opening to a DVD I've EVER SEEN. Seriously. It's got half a dozen Japanese girls acting as cheerleaders, waving around pom poms built around human skulls. Meanwhile, in the background, Japanese pop music commonly called "J-Pop" is wailing with its typically upbeat peppy style. The refrain "Slashers! Super fine!" can be heard at regular intervals. I don't know what the lyrics translate as, but it's really something to hear.

You can tell immediately that this is about a game show just from the title. It's spelled thusly:

"$la$her$"

Note the clever use of dollar signs denoting big prizes.

And indeed, that's what it is...it's a "extreme game show", in fact, the most popular one in Japan. And tonight, it's going to be big, or so says Miho, the show's vivacious host. It's an all-American special tonight, and half a dozen Americans are going to take a run at twelve million dollars US. The rules are cliche-simple. There ARE NONE. Anyone can work together or singlehandedly, with money to split or collect all at once.

The objective is simple--kill the slashers and walk away alive. Every Slasher killed adds another two million dollars US to the already-rich pot.

Our Slashers are bizarre to say the least.

Chainsaw Charlie, a described redneck with a weapon to suit his name, bears a striking and truly unsettling resemblence to Mad (r) (c) (tm) (please God don't let them sue me for mentioning their name in print i'm too poor to be sued!) frontman and logo Alfred E. Neuman (Alfred E. Neuman is a licensed property and official sponsor for Mad Magazine, see previous lawyer-pacifying rant).

Preacherman is a vaguely undead-looking fellow in a dour black outfit, toting a dagger in the shape of a cross.

Finally, we have Dr. Ripper, a truly hideous surgical type with a bone shear, and plenty of other malpractical tools of the trade.

There are other Slashers available that are only mentioned, or seen in the deleted scenes.

Weapons are scattered throughout the "Danger Zone", where the events take place, a strobe-light-strewn warren of tunnels and various flat arenas.

Bookies take bets on who will survive the day, or on any number of permutations therein. The fix is in on any number of fronts, and you can tell it. It's even possible that one or more contestants will in fact kill each other.

A little back-and-forth takes place in the seemingly safe haven of a plywood shack, before it too is attacked by our resident slashers. The party is separated by a surprise partition sealing off part of the shack, and two of our attractive female leads find themselves in the middle of a cheery warren of brightly-colored tunnels overlaid with calliope music.

And this leads to perhaps the biggest disappointment of the movie. There are indeed more Slashers available than the three we've already discussed. And the particular Slasher that generally shows up in this domain of balloons and calliope music is none other than "Slasho the Clown". Think of the sheer scare power that THIS guy could've had! Would've been one of the best uses of "evil clown" since IT and they passed it up in favor of the "preacher" who couldn't tell a bible from a phone book if you gave him two guesses.

I'm almost disgusted.

Preacherman takes his own cross blade in the eye following an action-halting commercial break. Chainsaw Charlie dies shortly after at the height of his duplicitous glory, showing way more brainpower than you'd expect from this guy.

Only a coldly enraged Dr. Ripper remains, along with four contestants. Our characters steadily die off, by one surprise method or another, until only two are left.

I can't tell you much more about the last fifteen minutes. Slashers manages to fit more surprises into its last fifteen minutes than some major studio releases can fit into a full two hour presentation. Surprise ambushes all throughout the movie, and surprise endings, make Slashers a solid little competitor.

The extras menu is surprisingly indepth, with commercials for the game show featuring Dr. Ripper and Chainsaw Charlie, deleted scenes, an original article about the movie reprinted from Fangoria, and a handful of other features.

Here's the interesting thing...when you watch the credits, note Chainsaw Charlie and Preacherman. That's right...SAME GUY.

Wow.

What gives me the most pause about "Slashers" is that it's so very likely to happen. Look at our current fascination with reality game shows. The only thing separating Slashers from "Fear Factor" is the level of violence involved. One key legislative act, and next thing you know we'd HAVE "Slashers," ten o' clock on Fox.

Willing participants? Oh, there'd be plenty, I'm sure. A prize stretching into the millions of dollars and an opportunity to legally kill people would call marginal psychopaths and die-hard horror fans from all over the continent. And the casting call for slashers would stretch around the block-a huge paycheck to act ghoulish and cut people to shreds? Advertisers would line up too, cash in hand, for a thirty-spot in the action. Official sponsorships would sell like water in the desert. Again I say, well populated, a sad commentary on society in general.

So all in all, Slashers is going to be one of the scariest movies you'll find in a while, but not solely because of the multiple homicides.

 

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Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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