Well, it's a direct-to-video Fred Olen Ray movie that's about three years too late to the "Snakes on a Plane" rip-off party. You were expecting good?
If you're not familiar with Ray, a primer's in order: in thirty years, the man has directed over a hundred films of the no-budget variety, stuff with titles like "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers," "Bikini Drive-In," and "Attack of the 60-Foot Centerfolds." And then there's the family fare, including the "Invisible Mom" series and "The Kid with X-Ray Eyes." The Showtime gay-vampire series "The Lair," too. Oh, and under various pseudonyms, he also delivers the late-night Skinemax goods along the lines of "Tarzeena: Jiggle in the Jungle" and "Super Ninja Bikini Babes." Meanwhile, he runs the home video company Retromedia and wrestles on the independent circuit under the name "Fabulous Freddie Valentine."
And now he has made a "Snakes on a Plane" rip-off, set in a submarine, starring Luke Perry. What's not to love?
Actually, quite a bit. "Silent Venom" is a movie that takes itself too seriously in all the wrong spots, not having learned the lesson from "Snakes on Plane" about how to mix the laughs and gross-out bits while refusing to take yourself seriously. It's not until a single scene, about fifteen minutes until the end of the picture, when Ray finally loosens up and allows a little goofiness. It's a good scene, well played by Perry (who doesn't take anything in this movie seriously, thank goodness); the guy gets a little slapstick in, plus some nice visual gags. It amounts to about ninety seconds of fun in a ninety-minute movie; the rest is repetitive non-action and tiresome almost-suspense. Ugh.
Perry stars as Commander James O'Neill, who's been given one last assignment (the script, by Mark Sanderson, tries its best to give us some backstory about O'Neill being in trouble with the Navy or something, and this new mission is his chance to redeem himself and retire with honors, but we just don't care), delivering an aging submarine across the Pacific for decommission. But along the way, they're ordered to pick up a couple of scientists and their cargo. The noble Dr. Andrea Swanson (Krista Allen, the poor man's Kari Wuhrer) and her weaselly assistant Jake Goldin (Louis Mandylor - Costas was apparently busy) have been experimenting on snakes, including, apparently, a couple of "giant mutants" that hiss and growl and rattle their cages like a gremlin after midnight.
Needless to say, dumb Jake doesn't secure the little fellas properly, and soon, they're out - all twenty of them. Yes, twenty, because eighteen's apparently all Ray could afford, having spent the rest of the budget on CG effects work to create two giant snakes. Judging from the final product, it's thirty bucks he should've spent elsewhere.
Those (real) snakes pop by every now and then, usually in bunches, terrifying the crew. They do this by sitting together on the floor in the middle of the set and not really doing anything to anybody. (Terrifying!) Every now and then they bite someone, and that cast member has to pretend to die. (Chilling!) Every now and then, Ray shakes the camera, "Star Trek"-style, to simulate turbulence. (Exciting!) The lack of action is remedied by yawn-inducing "Red October" nonsense in which the sub gets chased by the Chinese navy. (Unimpressive!) Perry finds himself in a showdown with one of the CG snakes, and a few minutes later he shoots a tiny snake in the face, and then the movie abruptly ends, leaving us to wonder why they saved the second big snake for a lame sequel-set-up punchline. (Disappointing!) Meanwhile, Tom Berenger pops up as Navy brass in a couple scenes, earning a decent paycheck for a half day's work. (Rent's due!)
It's all Sci-Fi Channel reject terribleness, with dialogue along the lines of "snakes, I hate 'em." Perry and Allen are good troopers, trying their darnedest with the material, even going so far as to cover themselves with a pile of the wiggly critters. But it's all for naught. The action goes nowhere, the suspense is non-existent, the production values are giggle-worthy. Fabulous Freddie Valentine, you've done it again.
Video & Audio
Once again, Fox has supplied us with a watermarked, compressed DVD-R screener copy and not final retail product. As such, we won't make a call on the disc's video quality until shelf product arrives. For now, we can tell you that the film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.
The Dolby 5.1 surround soundtrack keeps most of the action up front, clear if not at all impressive. The film's Casio-influenced music sounds bland, the effects are passably low budget. (With all that hissing and rattling in the mix, it's always a laugh when the noisy snakes manage to sneak up on someone.) Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are offered.
None. A batch of previews for other Fox releases plays as the disc loads.
"Silent Venom" might make for a good beer-and-pizza rental with your loudmouth pals, but for the saner among you, feel free to Skip It.