The first Michael Shanks vehicle to air since Stargate SG-1 ended its run is a whacked out little Sci Fi Channel B-movie called Mega Snake [Sci Fi, Saturday, 9/8C] – and what could be more perfect for a B-movie than a giant snake? How about a blink or you’ll miss it appearance by Matthew Atherton as his Who Wants To Be A Superhero-winning character Feedback? Certainly, Mega Snake is all that and a bag of… well… something other than chips…
Les Daniels [Michael Shanks] had the misfortune to be part of a Deep south family that used snake rituals in their services – and his fear of snakes led to his father, a priest of the sect, dying of snakebite. Now grown, and working as an EMT, he finds himself at loggerheads with his brother, Duff [John T. Woods] about returning to the church.
After another argument on the subject, he stalks off to work and Duff heads off to buy some new snakes for his church service. In a shop run by an Indian named Screaming Hawk [Ben Cardinal], he procures a couple of nasty reptiles before noticing a strange jar in which a snake with a kind of checkered skin is writhing. Screaming Hawk explains that it is a legendary breed that nearly wiped out his people before a way was discovered to slay it. There are three rules for owning one of these supernatural snakes: Don’t fear it, don’t let it eat flesh, and don’t let it out of the jar!
In classic B-movie fashion, the jar is accidentally broken and the escaped snake dines on the family cat, and like Topsy, it growed! Eventually it reaches a seventy-foot length, but in the meantime, Les has problems of his own.
It seems that his girlfriend, Erin [Siri Baruc] has given up on him because he hasn’t been willing to commit. Now she’s going out with the arrogant town cop, who treats Les less than well when his family goes missing – and there’s a lot of blood left behind! Erin is further alienated when she finds Les and Fay in the back of a pickup truck that’s been called in as possibly abandoned – but the cop puts him in jail on suspicion of murder.
Comic relief is [kinda] supplied two ultra-redneck guys who claim to be the best hunters around and get involved with the hunt for the snake – once there’s sufficient evidence to believe that there is a snake [the cop’s last words being “Snake! Snake!” undoubtedly help…].
This is the kind of movie where most of the characters and even some of the plot have the feeling of verisimilitude. Snake handling religious sects are nothing new, nor is the kind of triangle that exists between Les, Erin and the cop [nor is it unbelievable that Fay might want to turn that triangle into a quadrangle]. The legend of the giant snake certainly has the feel of authenticity, possibly because Ben Cardinal is completely convincing.
For the most part, Mega Snake works because of a script that doesn’t really allow much more beyond its one fantastic element – and because director Tibor Takacs gets a lot of mileage out of wildly angled shots in the forest and gives us a distorted point of view to represent the snake. Takacs smartly keeps the onscreen appearances of the snake to a minimum before the denouement. As a result, it’s a lot scarier and the plot builds to an adrenaline-pushing conclusion in which we learn that the instruction to not feat the heart of the snake can be taken quite literally…
Overall, Mega Snake has some good, solid performances; some decent CG effects and a terrific Cajun flavored southern music score [courtesy of Guy Zerafa] add up to a decent enough bit of entertainment. Even the cameo by Feedback works because of the way he’s used [and his bravery is especially heartening]. And, it classic B-movie readition, it even has a poster that has nothing to do with the movie! How much more authentic can you get?
Final Grade: C+