Snake Island is an island located somewhere in the proximity of South Africa whose population reads:
- 1 washed-up ’80s TV star
- 1 mediocre “triple threat” writer/actor/director
- 8 to 10 expendable “B” actors (3 black and thus all the more expendable)
- A half dozen monkeys pecking away randomly on typewriters
In truth, there are few actual snakes on the isle, but rather than go the computer animation route favored by most SyFy films, Snake Island chooses to take images of real snakes and digitally place them in the scene, creating a “something ain’t quite right here” effect akin to one of those do-it-yourself amusement park video booths. At other times, rubber snakes are held up with strings or, if the camera were to pan down, likely someone’s hand. When real-life snakes are shown, it’s usually in an extreme close-up, far away from any humans. Occasionally, they’re thrown onto the actors from off screen in an attempt to make them more menacing, when in reality, it just made me think, “I wonder who’s getting paid to throw snakes at people from off screen?”
Writer/director Wayne Crawford (of Headhunter…uh, “fame”?) co-stars as Jake Malloy, a tour guide who takes author Malcolm Page (William Katt, who will always be The Greatest American Hero to me) to Snake Island to do some research, but gets stranded along with several tourists once his boat breaks down. Eddie (Russel Savadier), who looks like a John Rhys-Davies stunt double, is a white South African who’s recently invested in a hunting lodge on the isle, ignoring the fact that the previous owners “mysteriously disappeared.” Seems the island has a bad reputation, especially among the local blacks (“It’s a bitch of a time keeping black staff,” he explains.).
Righteous (Japan Mthembu), however, is one black man who throws caution to the wind, along with self-evidentiary dialogue like, “Snake Island not a good place.” He’s a God-fearing sidekick who sticks by Eddie’s side and expresses a disdain for snakes because they tempted Adam and Eve…a recipe for death if I’ve ever heard one. Fellow black victim Lisa (Dawn Matthews) is a tourist who shares a hatred for snakes, but lucky for us, she loves to get naked! During an impromptu party, she feels the need to disrobe as she shakes her groove thing, but our enjoyment is cut short when the camera pans to a snake DANCING TO THE BEAT.
Among other head-scratchers in the film is how one member of Eddie’s crew who’s killed by snakes ends up stowed away neatly in a closet, while another is covered up from head to toe with a blanket. Snakes can apparently cover up crime scenes! Ah, Wayne Crawford, you magnificent bastard.
Crawford is pleasantly corny as an actor, but he’s downright lousy as a director. Scene after scene, he tries to manufacture scares by showing snakes ALMOST catching people unawares or by playing “jump” music at inappropriate times, like when a CD tray juts open. Look out! It’s The Best of Air Supply! By the end, the action is so ridiculous, all I could think about was the Simpsons episode about Snake Whacking Day. You’re better off whacking something else than watching what Snake Island has to offer.