William B. Davis
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Snakehead Terror (2004)
5th Feb 06
Bruce Boxleitner battles an army of snakehead fish.
When Anchor Bay's new Creature Feature box set arrived and we shared the movies out, I practically leapt on The Snakehead Terror, mainly because it starred Bruce Boxleitner. He was Tron you know, and then in the 80s he had a TV hit with The Scarecrow and Mrs King with that lady from Charlie's Angels, before returning to our screens in the 90s with Babylon 5. I didn't much care for that last show as I thought it dipped it's toe far too much into Trekkiedom for my tastes, but the point is that Boxleitner's a proper jobbing B-list actor and we at eatmybrains.com have always got a lot of time for guys like that, what with them being the backbone of the whole industry and all that. So how's he doing these days then? Well if The Snakehead Terror is anything to go by, a lot better than you'd expect, once you get over the concept that thirty years on Jaws is still the safest bet for an eco-horror movie template.
The film opens nicely enough with a long underwater montage of snakehead fish attacking stuff superimposed with newspaper headlines reporting on the phenomenon. Apparently some small fishing town in middle America (which we'll refer to as Small Town from now on for convenience sake) had so much trouble with the buggers that they decided to pump the local lake full of poisonous chemicals to kill them all off. That was two years ago and the local economy is just recovering.
Enter Bruce Boxleitner from stage left as the Small Town sheriff (small town sheriff - check) with a teenage daughter (opportunity for daughter in peril later - check) who's secretly planning a Eurotrip with boyfriend. But that all goes to pot when her boyfriend is mysteriously killed in a swimming race. Evidence from that and the bodies of a dead hunter and his dog lead Bruce to believe that the snakehead terror is back (and he's the only one who believes it - check), so he goes to the Small Town mayor asking him to close the lake while he investigates. Obviously the mayor says no (greedy official not taking sheriff seriously - check), so Bruce calls the Department of Fresh Water Resources, who send an attractive female middle aged fish specialist (specialist - check). Meanwhile a nosy reporter finds out what's going on, runs the story and soon Small Town is awash with opportunistic redneck hunters. At the same time Bruce's daughter gets on a revenge kick and organises her own doomed-to-failure boat hunt mission, while her dad follows up on a subplot about a local scientist dumping human growth hormones into the lake (thus meaning that the terror is man made - check).
So what will happen? Will Bruce and the hot scientist get to the bottom of the problem in time to stop another Small Town disaster, or will he just get to the scientist's bottom? Or will his daughter get herself into too much peril first meaning he has to come running to the rescue? Well, what do you reckon?
You could argue that a monster movie is only as good as it's monster, and if you agree with that you might just be pleasantly surprised by The Snakehead Terror. Early on you don't get to see much of them, mainly just bubbles before the claret flows, but by the middle of the flick the little critters are hunting in packs for all to see and action picks up accordingly; the sequence where the hunter snipes dozens of blighters underwater in an attempt to save a couple of teenagers that have fallen overboard being a particular highlight. And it's not long before they're jumping out onto the shores and terrorizing folk up close too, which is when we first glimpse that these fellas are more like alligators than fish, what with their big teeth, legs and breathing out of water abilities. But by the end it goes really crazy as they're soon everywhere, with a whale sized snakehead ruling the lake and hundreds of the normal sized walking killer fish surrounding the house where Bruce's teenager daughter and her mates finally hold up. This sets up the surprisingly gore-soaked, action packed finale as the kids shoot, smack and hack up scores of them using whatever it is they can find, which in this case happens to be a revolver, a shotgun a huge fire axe. This is a 15 yes, but I think that's only because the censor doesn't have a problem with you slicing and dicing rubber monsters until the cows come home. It's human maiming that is the real problem, and that's handled with much more discretion here.
Anyway, that's The Snakehead Terror in a nutshell for you. Okay so the acting is going to win no awards (even at the world famous Sitges Festival) and neither is the directing, cinematography or any other film disciplines you could care to mention as that's not the kind of film this is. What you do get is an enjoyable B-movie romp through the old eco-horror rulebook, with minimal CG, plenty of latex monsters and a few high-octane set pieces.
I guess at the end of the day they do make them like they used to after all.
Versions Available as part of Anchor Bays Creature Feature box set.
23rd Mar 04 Forget the Ed Gein movie – this is where its at. Deranged is darkly hilarious but also deeply disturbing account of the nefarious activities of the same person, but is executed with much more skill than the Ed Gein movie.