Snakehead Terror (Review)
In 2002, Northern Snakeheads were found in the wild in the Washington, DC area, in a pond near Crofton, Maryland. The Snakeheads are a non-native species with no known predators in the area, and are considered an ecological menace because they are pervasive carnivores and would decimate fish populations. Snakehead fish are not only predators that eat almost anything, but they can survive outside of water for up to a few days. The original hysteria died down after the lake was poisoned and drain, but the snakeheads have been popping up again more recently. This film plays off of the fears of the original, and turns it into the classic “Monsters Attack!” plotline familiar to Sci-Fi channel movies, as well as Science Fiction movies for the past 80 years. In fact, there are two(!) Snakehead movies running around on Sci-Fi channel, Snakehead Terror is joined by Frankenfish, which we’ll be going over next. (This film was the first part of the double feature) As can be imagined, there are many similarities between these two films. They both share properties with the tried and true formulas of the monster attacks movies, which most, if not all, of the movies produced cheaply by Sci-Fi channel give us again and again.
In an actual neat-looking opening, news stories and newspaper clippings of the snakehead in the lake are glossed over, giving us a crash course background of information, or a refresher for those of us familiar. Then we cut to TWO YEARS LATER. A hunter and his dog (who I think is named Hunter) are in the Maryland forest, when Hunter comes across a mutilated bear. The dog Hunter sees the tail of a fish flopping away, and gives chase into the nearby lake. Old Hunter Guy (later named Ray Wilkins) follows, but he’s too old to keep up. Hunter the dog enters the lake, and is quickly chomped by something in the water. “BOOOO!!!” for the dog death! Hunter Ray Wilkins catches up to what’s left of his dog, and he’s soon chowed down upon as well.
We have Sheriff! This film needed a police authority figure, every single one of these films has one, except when an army man can substitute (see Coolio in Pterydactyl). Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner is the father of Amber, who is dating some guy whose name I didn’t catch. Amber has something important to tell her dad; basically she’s not going to college for a year so she can go to Europe with her boyfriend. She doesn’t get around to telling Daddy that, as Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner is called away because they’ve found a dead body. Amber is exceedingly upset. Not because there is a dead body, but because her Sheriff father has to do something when dead bodies litter the street. She storms off. This would be understandable if the Sheriff was sheriff of a crime-ridden ghetto, but the cops here don’t seem to even know what to do when they find a dead body, thus this unusual event should have shown Amber the enormity of the situation as to why her father had to run off. Instead, she acts like a spoiled tramp, and will continue to do so later in the film. I think we were supposed to see that being a single father Sheriff is tough, and daddy needs to listen, but come on! It’s a dead body in nowheresville. That doesn’t happen everyday (though it will be happening everyday later in this film.)
Sheriff arrives, and Deputy Gump is police-taping off the scene of the crime. The crime being the dead dog Hunter from earlier. Okay, no real body. That is, until Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner wades into the lake and pulls up a floating arm of Hunter Ray Wilkins. Amber and her spoiled friends wander off to the Maryland Lakeside of Drinking High School Idiots, where they start drinking. We meet one guy named Luke who thinks he’s Stifler from American Pie, another kid so blonde and pale I thought he was an albino, and an extra female character whose name I also didn’t catch but according to the cast list is named Jagger. I would like to think I’d have remembered the name Jagger. I wonder if her papa was a Rolling Stone… Boyfriend of Amber doesn’t want to race Stifler in a beer bong drinking competition, so they instead decide to do a swimming race for $300. Everyone gathers onshore to watch them and cheer on their favorite, as the two competitors shake hands and jump in. Now you know one of these boys is going to soon be Snakehead Snackcakes. Unfortunately for the entire movie watching public, it is not the mightily annoying Stifler guy, but is instead Boyfriend of Amber. Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner visits the Coroner Doc Jenkins to find out what happened to Boyfriend of Amber, they discuss that it may be a gator. The first sign that something is amiss should be that Doc Jenkins is Cigarette-Smoking Man from the X-Files! Look out, Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner! Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner talks with the Mayor asking him to close the Lake, but the mayor won’t, as there is a big fishing tournament coming up that is needed to pump up the economy. The town lost all their fishing when the snakeheads were found in the lake two years ago and they poisoned all the fish to kill them. Keep this in mind for later.
Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner calls in the Department of Freshwater Resources. I looked this up, there is no such thing. In Maryland, he should have called the Maryland Department of the Environment, or the Department of Natural Resources. Hey, the Department of Natural Resources is tagging fish and you could win a million dollars… Wait, back to the movie. Before the Department answers him, Sheriff goes home and is yelled at by his grieving daughter that he doesn’t spend any time with her. He bumbles about, though from what we’ve seen of her so far, she’s just whiny. Maybe there is some backstory, but who knows? After calling the fairy tale agency, we get Scientist Woman Biologist named Lori Dale. Lori Dale makes jokes about biologists all being grey-haired, thick glasses having old men. Well, screw you, Lori. This biologist is a handsome devil. Lori Dale is our love interest, as Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner is a widower. Heck, most of these films have hot biologist ladies. This is not that far off, as biologists seem to have the greatest proportion of women, and women of the attractive variety. Now, if there was a glut of movies with hot physicist babes, then it’s science fiction, unless they are all played by the girl who played Winnie on The Wonder Years, as she is a genius.
Biologist Lori Dale spends three seconds at her computer with a tooth that was found on one of the bodies, and declares that it belongs to a Northern Snakehead, except bigger. Three seconds. Not even scanning it in, the laptop knew spontaneously what its dimensions were. It’s one of those magic CSI computers, the ones that can get complete portraits from blurry images in photos, or even more absurd, from the reflection in a person’s eye in a photo. What was the writer thinking? CSI has done more to ruin legitimate fiction than a thousand Sci-Fi channel movies. It’s time for a quick bloody sequence; a completely unknown character is fishing, and finds a small snakehead eating his bait. He stabs the fish, killing it, but then a giant snakehead jumps up and bites off his leg. The unknown man screams, but is soon knocked into the water, and gobbled up. Excitement is boring, so back to the police station, with Lori on the phone yelling about giant snakeheads, loud enough for the passing reporter character to hear. He sends his Indian photographer to get pictures while he goes to write the big “Snakehead Terror” story. Photographer gets scarfed up, and Reporter drives over a bunch of snakehead fish that are just lying on the highway at the middle of night, causing him to crash. He then loses his head over the whole ordeal, as bigger snakeheads bite it off and it lands in the backseat.
It’s Fishing Tournament Time! Hey, here’s a question. Why do monsters always attack a few days before the most important festivals in the history of whatever small town they are invading? It’s like all these monsters have impeccable timing. The mayor is grilled on the radio about Giant Snakeheads, which he denies. They’ll be no reelection for him if he lives through this. Deputy Gump mentions that Lori is “pretty hot for a biologist.” Again with the biologist smears. Lori spends her time trying to search for why the snakeheads are huge, figuring out it some type of hormone. At the lake, some fishermen catch a snakehead and gut it on the docks, a human hand popping out. The mayor declares the threat over, the snakehead terror having been just caught. Sheriff Boxleitner argues that there are more than one of them, but the Mayor won’t listen. Sheriff and Lori get on a boat to test some chemicals in the water. Meanwhile, Amber and her friends plan vengeance upon the creature in the water, and get a hold of a spear gun and a pistol, and get a boat to hunt down the snakehead themselves. Lakeside, Lori figures out it’s Human Growth Hormone (HGH), but Sheriff gets trapped on an overturned boat of an unfortunately fishing competitor, whose head is floating in the water, as the snakeheads attack. He shoots several of them, but one knocks the head way up in the air like a dolphin playing volleyball. Sheriff gets back on the real boat with Lori, and they see Doc’s brother dumping chemicals in the lake. They give chase.
The teens are giving chase of their own, they located a snakehead with their electric fishfinder, only it gets eaten by a bigger snakehead. They decide to kill that one, when it returns with several friends. The teens encounter another boat with two guys in it who are killing as many snakeheads as they can. The fleet of snakeheads rams the boat, knocking the black crewman into the water. His partner snipes a number of snakeheads, but the black crewman is devoured. The Albino teen also manages to fall in the water, and he’s polished off as well. Stifler shoots the harpoon gun into the floor of the boat, and then falls over the side himself. Amber also falls, but somehow not out of the boat, though she does drop her gun. She’s fired it around ten times without reloading, but it’s a revolver. Probably growth hormones in the bullets, HGH explains everything now! Jagger picks up the gun, but her aim is either the worst in the universe, or the best, as she manages to shoot the gas tank of the second boat, blowing it to heaven in a ball of flames and roasting the sniper guy, giving the snakeheads some cooked meat. Amber drives their now sinking boat toward an island in the middle of the lake at full speed, while water rushes into the hole in the bottom. That is, when a snakehead isn’t rushing in! Snakeheads can outrun speedboats! Well, puppets of snakeheads can. They crash ashore, and the puppet jumps onto Amber’s arm and won’t let go. She hobbles to the still running engine, and blenders the snakehead tail-first in the spinning blades. The girl’s island plan isn’t the best, as snakeheads can walk on land, as they will soon learn the hard way.
Stifler isn’t dead, either. His leg is a wreck, but somehow he made it onto the island as well. It’s punishment from the gods. These snakeheads may have some sort of standards, they won’t eat certain people. There is no cell phone reception on the island, so the trio wanders around and discover a cabin. The cabin contains a legless dead man, as the snakeheads were pigging out earlier. Upstairs, Stifler finds the snakehead who went inside chewing on old lady face, and it almost makes him incapable of reproducing, but not quite. Amber ruins everything with one blow of the axe (into the fish.) In town, the Doc admits to putting HGH into the water. To attract Agent Mulder! No, wait, it’s to grow the fish population faster, as we’ve all figured out already. Unfortunately, the snakeheads weren’t dead, and they’ve enjoyed the HGH gravy train a bit too much. Now they are the only things left in the lake, and they’re hungry. Sheriff gets a report his daughter and the other girl are missing. He should put up an Amber Alert! Why does he get told about the other girl Jagger, and not anything about either of the guys? Shouldn’t they have been missing as well? Or did someone see some albino blood and assume the worst? Lori brings a new toy to help, a gun that has an electric current that fries fish in the water.
Before the rescue, we need another random victim. This time, Doc’s brother is burying the remaining HGH on the island, because it’s easier than just dumping the whole thing in the lake, I guess. But he’s eaten. Sheriff and Lori head to the island, but they’re soon jostled by the frenzied snakeheads. Lori accidentally hits the boat with the electro-gun, shorting out the electric circuits. They can get the boat to shore, but first witness a whale-sized snakehead flopping around. This is a fellow who is probably Snakehead Zero. On the island, the girls start to lock up the house and close the windows. They didn’t bother to do this before? It’s too little, too late, as the snakeheads come crashing in. Amber seems to have picked up a shotgun from somewhere in the house, and she’s spraying the invaders with a liberal dose of shotgun shells. Stifler is attacked in the other room, but his slowly loses his advantage and is swarmed, one snakehead finally biting his face and not letting go. Go Snakeheads! Amber keeps blasting away, and Jagger keeps swinging away with the axe. The Sheriff hears the entire battle, and runs toward the cottage, but the battle is long, very long, and he doesn’t get there until well after it’s over. Unless the island is 30 miles long, the Sheriff needs to hit the gym.
Sheriff Bruce Boxleitner finally gets to the house, and it’s surrounded by Snakeheads that are just lounging around, trying to use their fishy brains to figure out how to get into the house. Sheriff gets an idea to electrocute them all, as “All the juice in town runs through here!” Yep, for some reason, the town has all their electricity delivered to them through an island with only two residents in the middle of a gigantic lake. An island that doesn’t even have a phone. Was their power plan designed by Homer Simpson? Maybe the designers predicted the need to electrocute invasive land-crawling fish on day in the future and thus made their selection. The fish get hosed and Lori gets the girls out, and uses her electro-gun locally, killing nearby fish and also zapping Jagger, who manages to fall at just the wrong instance. She isn’t killed, and is helped to the escape zone. Sheriff Boxleitner starts shooting at a random power line, until he runs out of ammo. He then steps back onto the boat they used, and reloads on the boat. That’s not a good idea, especially since a fire has now started on the dock, meaning Sheriff is caught between water and fire. Now he’s caught between fire and Whale-sized Snakeheads, as it attacks! The music track channels the Jaws theme, but varies just enough to not get their pants sued off by John Williams. Sheriff manages to shoot the power line, so now it’s harmlessly frying the ground. Amber is tapped to go dump it into the lake, but instead she acts supersqueamish and can’t pick it up. Leave it up to Lori to step on the line so Amber can grab it, and she dumps it into the lake as Super-Snakehad is chomping up the dock. Super-Snakehead is fried! The other snakeheads are fried! Even the ones on land, I guess. They’re all dead! Everyone is happy, and they hug, the Father and Daughter having bonded, as brutal fish-murder cures all angst. And now for the shock ending: The shock ending is a lack of shock ending! It certainly shocked me, as I was waiting for Snakehead babies to pop up and eat Cigarette-Smoking Man or something. Nope. I guess they are dead. Until the sequel. I’m not sure this film will get one, but Raptor Island is getting one. Crocodile got one. Boa got one. Python got one, and then fought Boa. I don’t know what the rating was, but since snakeheads are still popping up in US lakes, the terror probably won’t end here.
Next up, is the other snakehead movie, Frankenfish, where I’ll compare these two films. By itself, Snakehead Terror is better than some of the Sci-Fi fare. It certainly has the required characters: A sheriff/cop character, a scientist/love interest, a small town, a mayor who won’t shut down whatever festival is happening, random hunters, annoying teenagers, really annoying teenagers, random people killed every ten minutes as recommended by Sci-Fi channel itself, and CGI monsters. The gore scenes are plenty, and there are a few good points. The snakeheads are created by someone with an actual motivation besides “I wanna hunt them!” which is a rare bonus. The boyfriend dying quickly was also unexpected, so they get points for that. But as we will see in the next update, Frankenfish just outdoes them in most areas, although not in every aspect.
Rated 4/10 (Doggie find fishy!, Lend a helping hand, So white it hurts, Dewey Defeats Truman!)
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