Trashterpiece Theater Presents:
SILENT VENOM (2009)
Review by Stacey Longo
Snakes. Tom Berenger. A former 90210 heartthrob. What could possibly go wrong?
This was my mindset when I sat down to watch SILENT VENOM (2009). After all, Berenger’s an Oscar nominee (for PLATOON, 1986), and more importantly, I was the exact demographic BEVERLY HILLS 90210 (1990–2000) was targeting back in the day, and was one of hundreds of thousands of teens who thought Luke Perry was positively dreamy.
Here’s what I learned in the first five minutes of SILENT VENOM:
- Oh, Tom Berenger, how the mighty have fallen.
- Hot damn, Luke Perry still looks good.
Luke Perry plays Lieutenant Commander James O’Neill, who’s facing dishonorable discharge from the Navy because he put the safety of his men ahead of the orders of his superior officer. Tom Berenger, as Admiral Bradley Wallace, thinks he has a way for Perry to get out of this mess: if Perry delivers a decommissioned submarine to Taipei, the military will let him retire without dishonor.
In the meantime, Dr. Andrea Swanson (Krista Allen) and her co-scientist Jake Goldin (Louis Mandylor) are on an island, releasing a radioactive, mutated snake into the wild to mate with the local vipers, which is always a sensible idea, isn’t it? The snake babies are the worst kind of serpents of all: deadly, toxic, and mutated to grow to about 40,000 times their normal size. Goldin accidentally breaks all but two antivenin vials in the exposition scene, firmly establishing him as a douchebag. Now our scientists are in trouble, so cut to—
—a bunch of men in military uniforms, including Berenger, discussing the two scientists conducting bioweapons research on the island. Oh, so that’s why they’re having radioactive rattlers mate with pit vipers: their toxic snake venom could protect the U.S. military forces from toxic nerve gas. It all makes sense now!
But the government has gotten word the scientists are in trouble. If only someone could take a decommissioned sub and swing by the island, which happens to be directly on the way to Taipei. But who? Who, I ask you?
You know who. Our dreamboat Dylan McKay—er, Lt. Comdr. James O’Neill—reluctantly agrees to the rescue mission. This goes off without a hitch, except Goldin sneaks all the mutated, highly toxic snakes onboard, all of which will inevitably escape on the sub and wreak crazy havoc, or just silently enjoy the ride. Could go either way, right?
The mutated, highly toxic snakes escape on the sub and proceed to wreak crazy havoc.
First to get bitten is an unnamed recruit who was just too darn curious about Goldin’s unmarked suspicious crates for his own good. (This is how those naughty radioactive vipers get loose in the first place.) The rest of the crew doesn’t know what’s wrong with the guy—he’s showing signs of a hemorrhagic fever. “Do we need a quarantine?” O’Neill asks. The doctor doesn’t know. I hope not, because the doc, O’Neill, and another hapless recruit are having this conversation over the guy’s sickbed, then proceed to the mess hall, so if it is a virus, everyone’s got it now.
It’s not, of course. Another man is bitten, and this time, the doctor notices the puncture wounds from the bite. O’Neill and company speculate that perhaps something from the island jungle came on board, like a spider. Ooh! So close!
Goldin finally fesses up to Andrea, who tells Dreamy O’Neill what’s going on. There are 20 venomous snakes loose onboard, and the crew’s all gonna die. The cook is bitten in the kitchen, but luckily is holding a meat cleaver when it happens; make that 19 venomous snakes. There are also two really horrible poisonous bad snakes —the ones that’ll grow to 40,000 times their normal size—but which are still contained . . . until they aren’t.
To add more mayhem to the scenario, there’s a Chinese sub in the area firing warning torpedoes in their general direction. Don’t worry: this pointless subplot is resolved fairly quickly, but not before a few good men become snake snacks.
Goldin steals the last two vials of antivenin, but they do him no good when the really bad snakes get him. Now it’s up to O’Neill and Swanson to save the day. And one of them does. Hooray!
So how was this snakes-on-a-sub scenario? This isn’t badly acted, though you’ll see many scenes with Perry and Smith that’ll make you wonder if either of them have any sense whatsoever of personal space. They’re both close-talkers, and it’s uncomfortable to watch.
And when the really bad snakes are killed, the remaining characters act like all is now well. What about the other dozen or so poisonous vipers still on the sub? I mean, isn’t that what all the fuss was about to begin with?
I also have mixed feelings about the snakes themselves. The CGI used for the really bad snakes was just terrible. While watching this, I was embarrassed for the special effects people involved with the film. But these CGI clown-snakes are interspersed with real serpents, selected simply for their attractive patterns: corn snakes, rat snakes, a boa constrictor, milk snakes, an albino corn snake, and one absolutely gorgeous viper I’ve tentatively identified as a speckled king snake. They were stunning—but also, to anyone with a passing interest in herpetology, easily identified at a glance as non-venomous. Still: beautiful. But was it enough?
I suppose the movie can be boiled down to high points and low points.
Cons: This movie wasn’t funny, the climax was sort of anticlimactic, and I didn’t laugh out loud once. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to. But when I watch a crappy snake movie, the minimum I ask for is at least one chuckle.
Pros: There were lots of pretty snakes in this movie. And hot damn, Luke Perry still looks good.
© Copyright 2017 by Stacey Longo Harris