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Case Number 16603: Small Claims Court

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Silent Venom

Fox // 2009 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // June 12th, 2009

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All Rise...

Surprisingly, Judge Christopher Kulik didn't inject this review with a lot of venom.

The Charge

"Attention all crewmembers! Snakes have compromised the control room!"

The Case

The DVD cover at Silent Venom screams Grade-Z garbage. In the tradition of the low-budget sequels to 1997's Anaconda, this film throws in a bunch of deadly snakes attacking a bunch of cardboard characters. Many of them make rocks sharp and intelligent. Yet, even with all the lame mechanics of the plot, Silent Venom actually emerges as cheap, low-rent fun. Don't get me wrong, I'm not recommending this movie by a long shot, but if your friend or spouse rents this and asks if you'd like to watch, chances are you won't hate 'em in the morning.

A U.S. Navy nuclear submarine is currently on maneuvers in the Pacific Ocean. Captain James O'Neill (Luke Perry, Beverly Hills 90210) gets orders from Admiral Bradley Wallace (Tom Berenger, Platoon) to rescue a small band of government scientists led by the sexy Dr. Andrea Swanson (Krista Allen, The Final Destination) deserted on a tiny island. Swanson and her surviving team member (Louis Mandylor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) manage to get onboard ok. A few minutes later, however, a Chinese Han submarine (still considered a threat) is coming close to O'Neill's boat. To further complicate things, Swanson's confidential cargo (venomous snakes with a tendency to increase in size and aggression) are let loose by one dumb, inquisitive sailor. Can O'Neill protect his crew from the Chinese and these poisonous pit vipers?

Silent Venom is about as believable Paris Hilton joining the Marine Corps. It attempts to be both a suspenseful creature feature and a rousing submarine action film, ultimately failing at both routes. As a former Navy sailor, I was laughing at the set, which seems to consist of one corridor, a tiny control room passing itself off as a bridge, and a ten-member crew. All the key players are here: the guilty, but well-meaning scientist; the assistant who's hardly altruistic; the hero who believes in honor and sacrificing himself before anyone else; a doctor who's there simply for medical updates; and the numerous bit players who have no other purpose other than be vulnerable snake bait.

Yet, as bad as this film is, it has one worthy trait: it's never boring. Since the filmmakers rarely take the situation seriously, there are some intentional, amusingly jokey moments which punctuate its zippy 86-minute running time. Perry is not to be believed as a Navy Captain (his uniform creases are about as sharp as a bowling ball), but he still gives a spirited, no-nonsense performance. Thankfully, he doesn't ape Harrison Ford from Raiders of the Lost Ark when he confesses he hates snakes. Plus, even when coming off as stern and direct from a military standpoint, he always looks like he's about lose it and laugh his ass off.

Berenger must have been desperate for work after the cancellation of October Road, but he does inject a small amount of gravitas as the Admiral, considering he's played servicemen plenty of times already. As for Allen, she looks great and never becomes the clichéd screamer like so many of her colleagues who actually sign up for these hokey thrillers. If anything, she surely makes Jennifer Lopez in Anaconda look stupid by comparison.

The effects are about as cheesy as you would expect, especially when it comes to the bigger, computer-generated brood. Still, at least the filmmakers used real snakes in many of the shots, even if all they do is move slowly and hiss excessively. I understand this is a low-budget production, but I just can't fathom why they can't scrap computer graphics in lieu of something a bit more effective. The snake in Conan The Barbarian was scary without the benefit of digital technology, and it would have aided the deliberately silly attitude underneath the ostensible tension. Add it all together and Silent Venom is another brainless direct-to-DVD exercise, but it does have its moments thanks to a willing cast and an occasionally sarcastic script. It's not exactly worth renting, but it's also not entirely a waste of $2.50.

Fox has sent DVD Verdict a screener copy, so I cannot give you an accurate judgment on the technical quality. All I can say is the print is anamorphic; the only audio option is 5.1 Surround sound; optional subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish; and there are no extras.

The Verdict

Guilty of being another low-budget Anaconda clone, but the movie gets a reduced sentence for its few stabs at casual absurdity.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 63

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror
• Suspense
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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