Monday, October 17, 2011

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17 - Movie 1

When I was a kid, there was a group of movies that would show up on tv pretty regularly that are pretty silly, but just scary enough for my young age that I felt like I was passing some rite of passage watching them, and watching them repeatedly, preparing me for my first forays into R-rated fare at movie theaters when I was too young to get into an R-rated movie just a year or two later. Among this group of movies were The Devil's Rain (1975), The Manitou (1978), and Sssssss (1973).

Sssssss tells the story of a herpetologist (Strother Martin) who thinks humankind needs to evolve to survive in a near future world filled with pollution and barren of fossil fuels, so he's devised a formula which will turn them into snakes. His first test didn't work out as well as he hoped, so he tries again on his new research assistant (Dirk Benedict).

Like many movies made in the 1970s, it looks and feels like a tv movie from that period even though it isn't. The story is slowly drawn out, but actually remains fairly interesting because of all the asides involving the abilities and natures of the various snakes (which are used to kill meddlers) and the skinny dipping. Strother Martin underplays his mad scientist making him seem reasonable and likable, but the characters overall are pretty flat, even more noticeable when the most endearing character turns out to be a snake with a fondness for alcohol. The king cobras actually look pretty menacing. The make-up effects  by John Chambers and Nick Marcellino are pretty good, but would have benefitted from some subdued lighting. Using an amputee as the first snake man is pretty effective. The final transformation scene is actually pretty impressive and still holds up. As a kid, this scene disturbed me so much that for some time I would not let my legs touch each other while I slept out of fear that they'd merge and become a tail.

I can't whole heartedly recommend this movie, but it's not too bad. I certainly prefer it to Paranormal Activity (2007) or Insidious (2010).


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