In 1982, Taiwanese director William Chang Kee released an animal attack film that was intended to be exploitive, shocking, and violent. What he accomplished was something that still rings true to this day on a multitude of levels. In “Calamity of Snakes”, a wealthy businessman has hired a highly-regarded young architect to complete a high-rise apartment complex in a very short matter of time. While digging up the ground for the foundation, the construction crew encounters thousands of snakes buried beneath them. They decide to murder each and every snake as to not halt their production, which then leads to a series of curses and revenge that permeate long after the building has been rented out to new residents.
I’ll go ahead and say that although I was quite prepared with research on this film before watching it, I must say I was never really ready for it. Let me set the stage for you real quick, ahem: Me – I’ve been awake at this point for 20 hours and currently waiting in a mechanic’s lobby for over an hour to get an oil change done on my car; each seat in the office is occupied so we are sitting shoulder to shoulder; I turn this movie on on my phone; the man next to me glances over after the title cards and first couple minutes and then physically went to sit outside at a picnic table for the rest of his time there; I’m quite delirious from the combination of appalling animal violence and drowsiness which leads to me unconsciously overreact with my face as I shift from side-to-side in my chair.
This film is certainly bizarre for a variety of reasons. Firstly – since it’s Taiwanese it has that weirdly comical vibe to it with the way its characters interact with each other, the sound effects that happen at a given moment, the action scenes where people go flying across the room when slipping on something, etc. Next, we’re going to add a pretty solid amount of gore gags that honestly match some of Fulci’s or Raimi’s early work – they’re quite well done. Now, let’s elevate everything by putting actual footage of hundreds, if not thousands, of actual snakes seriously getting murdered. This is the part that caught me off guard – there are two or three scenes that are somewhere between 5 & 10 minutes long where you literally are just watching snakes get decapitated, sliced in half, smashed, stomped, burned alive, skinned alive… it’s quite stomach churning. And these scenes literally just hold still so you can soak it in to the sound of this weird almost techno-like musical score. This includes one scene where they are trying to get the snakes out of the complex after it’s been opened, and so they bag them all up and bring them to a dirt arena where they send mongoose assassins in to eat them. And for what feels like eternity, you just sit and watch what essentially feels like the exact footage BBC doesn’t want you to see in ‘Planet Earth’ in grave detail. It’s nauseating and quite over the top in its violence.
But, the snakes do get their come-uppance in a way by getting revenge on everyone within the building. They pour into the rooms thousands at a time and viciously bite, wrap, body-slam, uppercut, and throw people out of windows. The final half hour is just an explosion of blood, screaming, oozy-flesh wounds, and manic energy. The film altogether feels like a strange combination of David Cronenberg’s “Shivers”, James Gunn’s “Slither”, & Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me To Hell” – but with cobras and pythons instead of leech-like creatures or demonic entities.
Overall, the film is very effective in what it sets out to do – shock and entertain at the expense of many live animals. If you enjoy your 80s foreign horror with a fair amount of cheese and gore, then this film is probably right up your alley. Your mileage, however, entirely varies on how bad the animal cruelty affects you. But fear not! For our friends over at Unearthed Films just released this on a brand-new, beautifully rendered Bluray which includes a bounty of special features including a cruelty-free version to help more people enjoy this film and let them focus on the wacky energy, the violent conclusion, and the absurd comedy that rears its head almost at random. On top of that, they also are donating a portion of their profits to the ‘Save the Snakes’ International charity.
“Calamity of Snakes” is currently available to order on Bluray & DVD directly from Unearthed Films’ webpage here: https://www.unearthedfilms.com/…/calamityofsnakes.php
It is also available to rent on Amazon Prime & YouTube.
‘Til Next Time,
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