THE HISS OF DEATH
Boy, you know you're in for a real winner when that is the movie's tagline.
For the past year or so, RHI Entertainment has been releasing individual cheap creature-on-the-loose films on DVD under a banner called MANEATER SERIES. Most - if not all - of them have appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel, and fans of that station know the notoriously low quality of films that appear there.
On the heels of the release of a second collection of DVDs culled from the MANEATER SERIES, DVD Talk sends me this new individual title - Vipers - for review. Like many of the MANEATER SERIES films that precede it, Vipers stars a used-to-be popular actor (in this case, Tara Reid) and sports some fast-movin' and fake-lookin' CG killer creatures (this time around, genetically-enhanced vipers). Throw in a remote location without cell phone coverage - another hallmark of the MANEATER SERIES - and you've got Vipers.
I don't know if Vipers has appeared in a television-friendly edited form on the Sci-Fi Channel (the home video version is definitely R-rated territory), but it sure feels like it should have if it hasn't. The story, in a nutshell, involves the nice people of Eden Island. It seems everyone on the island is having an affair, interested in having an affair, or upset that others are having affairs. Everyone, that is, except Nicky (Tara Reid), whose fiancé was killed in the Iraq War. Nicky is just angry, and when she isn't punching the locals, she's selling teenagers home-grown pot.
The solution to Nicky's angst comes in the form of Cal (Jonathan Scarfe), a medic who served with Nicky's fiancé and was present when he died. As soon as Cal is introduced, it's clear he's meant to be a fiancé replacement.
You might think this is a tacky steal from the Bogart / Bacall classic Key Largo. I know I did.
Fortunately, there isn't much time to dwell on this as a whole bunch of CG killer vipers descends upon Eden Island, munching up any villagers who cross their path. The body count is really high in this one, with a lot of fake-looking gore and shoddy effects work.
And there you have Vipers. The acting is atrocious, by the way, and it doesn't help that most everyone on the island are unappealing characters. Watching Tara Reid stumble through her scenes makes one marvel at how far her star has fallen since the days when she appeared in memorable theatrically-released fare like the Jamie Blanks-helmed slasher opus Urban Legend and the American Pie films.
Still, Vipers does have its B-movie moments. It's full of silly action and characters who do really stupid things. I also appreciated how Cal and Nicky turn to ticking off the song titles for Pink Floyd's The Final Cut (featuring Roger Waters' most depressing lyrics ever) for solace as they torch vipers in battle - talk about a truly bizarre and unexpected script device. Viewers who like to laugh at bad films a la Mystery Science Theater 3000 will get a kick out of this one. If you're into creature feature mayhem, then this might be worth a look. Otherwise, just turn on the Sci-Fi Channel or Monsters HD to catch one of the thousands of other movies out there that are just like this one.
Vipers is presented in anamorphic widescreen. Like the last several Maneater Series DVDs I've been sent to review, Vipers looks fairly good with sharp detail. Colors seemed a tad muted, though, and video noise was noticeable during dark scenes.
The sole audio track is a well-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1. Dialogue is always clear, and a comparatively unobtrusive score keeps action sequences crisp.
Okay, so commercials for the Sci-Fi Channel and the Maneater Series of DVDs precede the main menu - and that's it for extras. In fact, the only menu options are Play and Scene Selections.
Vipers, believe it or not, is an improvement over Tara Reid's last direct-to-video horror flick Incubus. That doesn't mean Vipers is good, but it's got enough bad movie mojo to warrant a look (and a laugh) for connoisseurs of cheap CG monster films. Rent it, if you're interested.