International Horror Film Review: The Killer Snakes (dir by Chih-Hung Kuei)


Given my long-standing fear of snakes, you may be wondering why I would even own a copy of this 1974 film in the first place.  The best excuse I can give you is that I believe in confronting my fears.  Add to that, the back of the DVD claims that this this film is “infamous” and that it has been banned and censored in many countries.  Back in 2010, that was pretty much all I needed to read to convince me to purchase something.

Anyway, The Killer Snakes is a grim and sleazy film from Hong Kong and if you weren’t scared of snakes before watching the film, you’ll definitely be scared of them afterwards.  This isn’t like Snakes on a Plane, where there’s comedy and Samuel L. Jackson dropping classic lines.  This is a brutal and rather nihilistic film, one where the good and the bad alike are destroyed for their sins.  Everyone in this film took a bite from the fruit of the tree of knowledge and now the serpents are going to get revenge.

The film tells the story of Chen (Kwok-Leung Gan), who is the neighborhood weirdo.  After being traumatized by an awful childhood, Chen is now obsessed with bondage and voyeurism.  Being more than a bit creepy, he’s a natural target for every neighborhood bully.  He’s grown obsessed with Hsiu Chuan (Lin-Lin Li), a shopgirl who appears to be the only nice person living in the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, her boyfriend is not only one of the people who regularly bullies Chen but he’s also a pimp as well.

Chen’s only friends are the snakes that he’s been rescuing from the local restaurant.  At the restaurant, the snake’s gall bladders are removed and they’re tossed out into the ally to die  Chen has been collecting the restaurant’s snakes and all of the other local abused snakes and nursing them back to health.  Soon, Chen has an entire army of snakes which he then unleashes on everyone who he feels has mistreated him.  (Of course, what Chen doesn’t consider is that the snakes are seeking revenge less for him and more for their own personal reasons.)

Chen is so bullied that you might be tempted to have some sympathy for him but, whenever you start to feel sorry for him, he always manages to remind you that he may be a victim but he’s also a major creep.  He’s a grimy little voyeur with an obsession with revenge and bondage.  Whatever sympathy you may have for him will disappear as soon as one of his trained snakes attacks a bound prostitute.  (If you have a morbid fear of a snake slithering into your vagina, this is not the film to watch because …. AGCK!)  Actually, everyone in the film is terrible.  There’s literally not a single truly likable person to be found in the entire film.  Even the snakes are ultimately jerks.

The Killer Snakes is one of those films that seems to take place in a world that’s so sleazy and so covered in grime and lost hope that, after watching it, you’ll feel the need to take a shower to wash it all away.  Of course, in doing so, you’ll be running the risk of getting attacked by a snake.  That’s the type of film that The Killer Snakes is.  It’s unpleasant, it’s grimy, it’s sleazy, but it will still definitely have you checking under the covers for snakes.  It’s an effectively icky film.  These snakes don’t have to get on a plane to freak you out.

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