Thursday, June 3, 2010

In short: Jaws of Satan (1973)

A big damn snake of varying species (most often a cobra) kills its handlers with the help of its telekinetic powers and slithers into one of those typical US small towns which are often overrun by cannibal hippies, zombies, and giant rabbits. As the telekinesis proves, this ain't no normal snake, oh no. It's Satan himself, coming to kill the small town's pastor, the doubting Father Farrow (Fritz Weaver) to fulfil a druid curse that has been lying on the pastor's bloodline for centuries.

Because Satan wants to have fun, it/he, mind controls the local snake population into running amuck. The town's mayor (Bob Hannah) and Some Guy With Money are trying their best to keep the snake killings under wraps. He has the opening of the new dog-racing track to protect, and we can't have the people going to the racetrack not be killed by snakes, right?

But physician Doctor Sheridan (Gretchen Corbett) does not want to play the mayor's game, and calls herpetologist Dr. Hendricks (Jon Korkes) for help. Together with the priest, the duo of hapless idiots tries to solve the situation. Of course, Farrow will first need to renew his faith in the godhood that lets innocent bystanders be killed by random snake attacks, and Doctor Sheridan will have to escape the killer Some Guy With Money has set on her tail.

Well, I'm sure everyone will agree that the one thing the sub-genre of the Jaws rip-off needed to reach perfection (or is nadir the word?) is the addition of an utterly bonkers religious angle to the story. That should more than make up for the loss of even the little logic I demand from my horror films, and the utter idiocy each and every character shows, right?

Of course, stupidity has never prevented a film from being entertaining, but Jaws of Death is a disappointment on the unintentional humour front. Although the script is insane, the film's director (boring TV guy) Bob Claver treats its insanity with utter disinterest, putting all his energy into transforming the stupid into the boring and turning the potentially fun into a sloppy mess with some bonus scenes of real animal violence. Yes, let's make animals die for our crappy movie.

Especially bad are the "special effects" sequences, most of them much shoddier shot than those in a lot of contemporary films with much lower budgets. Seeing the glass plate between an actor and a snake is one thing, but hearing the snake's head hit the glass needs a director and an editor not giving a damn at all. It's too bad, really, because Dean Cundy's photography does look quite nice (and I know from his work with John Carpenter that it could have been even better than just "nice").

The acting is appropriately dreadful, alas in a boring (or in the case of Korkes "woodenly boring with extra wood") instead of an entertaining way.

Everyone before and behind the the camera is just going through the motions, it seems.

Did I mention that the film is boring?


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