A River of Bad Movies
What convocation of sorcerors has summoned "Boa vs. Python" up from the eldritch depths?
There are many villains of the film industry. It would be folly to lay the blame for bad movies at the feet of charmingly incompetent filmmakers like Ed Wood or the Palonia Brothers. They at least approached their craft with a great affection. Nor is it completely appropriate for the onus of horrible filmmaking to rest solely on companies like Trimark that seem obsessed with hoodwinking C and D grade stars into appearing in their movies about jets and aliens. The victims here are the American people, and the real villains, I have come to find, are the programming and financial executives at the Sci-Fi Channel. To say that movies produced for and by the Sci-Fi Channel are bad is to ignore the staggering achievements of the Sci-Fi Channel in the field of horrible movies.
I admit that I have seen enough bad movies on Sci-Fi long ago to merit writing this article, but I kept waiting for a sign. A sign from the demented gods of the Sci-Fi Channel that they had finally drifted so far down the river of shit of their own creation that there was not even a sliver of hope that they could paddle back upstream. That sign came last Saturday in the form of an advertisement for the Sci-Fi Channel's latest proudly proclaimed "Sci-Fi Original".
That movie is entitled "Python vs. Boa". Let me go ahead and reproduce the description from the Sci-Fi Channel's website. It's pretty difficult to believe.
After an overly ambitious businessman transports an 80-foot python to the United States, the beast escapes and starts to leave behind a trail of human victims. An FBI agent and a snake specialist come up with a plot to combat the creature - by pitting it against a bioengineered, 70-foot boa constrictor.
If you don't believe that's real and I can certainly understand why, then feel free to check for yourself. "Boa vs. Python" is not an anomaly. In fact, quite the opposite, especially considering that "Boa vs. Python" is a spiritual sequel to the Sci-Fi Channel's "Python 2". Which itself is a sequel to the straight to video shitbox "Python". Which is a direct rip-off of Ice Cube's horrible "Anaconda". Which was a low-rent "Jaws 2". The Sci-Fi Channel isn't just mad about giant snakes, they're also in love with such cutting-edge science fiction topics as saber tooth tigers, bio-engineering, and evil aliens.
Inspired by the conceptual abortion of a movie that is "Boa vs. Python" I have decided to delve into the Sci-Fi Channel's backlog of "Sci-Fi Originals" to bring you the absolute worst they have to offer. This was pretty difficult considering the best Sci-Fi produced movie was the "Dune" miniseries and even that was like a small town's Shakespeare club doing "Dune" after one rehearsal. It even managed to make Lynch's movie look like "Schindler's List". "Atomics" indeed Jean-Luc!
Sci-Fi Description: With military sponsorship, he uses advanced genetic science to create a living hatchling - a beast that immediately slays its handler, rips through an inch-thick steel wall and escapes into the covert compound. Automatic lockdown seals off the facility from the world, trapping the doctor and his staff inside with 48 hours till self-destruct - and the added pleasure of being stalked by a fire-breathing beast that nature never intended to see resurrected.
Pitiful Star Talent: Dean Cain
My Description: With the magical Z-movie man Dean Cain leading the charge, this movie manages to capitalize on the total lack of success of "Reign of Fire" by combining it with "Jurassic Park". It is one of Sci-Fi's more predictable features considering what a direct rip-off it is and how the film was timed to coincide with "Reign of Fire". Like Fox, Sci-Fi is all too happy to turn a box-office flop into a terrible film that creeps into the schedule almost daily after its premier. I suppose the Sci-Fi Channel's thinking on this one was that if a major studio is expecting people to go see a really bad idea like "Reign of Fire" then they might be even more willing to see several really bad ideas fed into a blender if it's free!
Suck Factor: I have seen bits an pieces of this movie, which makes it something of an exception considering I have gone to great lengths to ignore everything else. Dean Cain is as charmingly wooden as ever and the plot is ludicrous, but the terrible special effects are not nearly as terrible as some of the other Sci-Fi Originals.
Interceptor Force 2
Sci-Fi Description: Now, a new alien shapeshifter has arrived and slaughtered the personnel of a Russian nuclear power plant. She's got her hands on a hyper-fusion reactor and a cache of nuclear warheads - and is about to ignite an explosive chain reaction that will crack Earth open like an egg.
Pitiful Star Talent: Olivier Gruner
My Description: "Interceptor Force 2" is the ridiculously titled sequel to "Interceptor Force", which was just poorly titled because it didn't have a number at the end indicating that people were stupid enough to finance a second film. You know a movie is getting off to a rocky start when the lead is being played by someone who is considered a cheap imitation of Jean-Claude Van Damme. It's like photocopying a photocopy of a photograph and then printing the result in a trade publication about alien shapeshifters.
Suck Factor: I only saw the trailer of this one, but even in that you catch a glimpse of just how seriously Olivier Gruner takes his role as Lt. Sean Lambert. Seeing an actor taking this film seriously is sort of like a guy who plays Bar Mitzvahs and weddings for a living talking about his "art". The special effects were on par with a late run episode of "Lost in Space" and the acting I saw, aside from Gruner, consisted mainly of shrieking and grunting.
Deathlands: Homeward Bound
Sci-Fi Description: Adapted from Deathlands: Homeward Bound - the fifth in a series of more than 50 books - the movie finds Ryan returning to the village of Sherville in what used to be Virginia. There, 20 years earlier, his brother Harvey (Alan C. Peterson) and their young stepmother Rachel (First Wave and Profiler star Traci Elizabeth Lords) conspired to kill the boys' father, the local baron. Harvey ran a sword through Ryan's eye, and left a slash on his brother's cheek. Ryan escaped - and as with Shakespeare's Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth, there will be both tragedy and nobility … both brotherhood and bloodshed.
Pitiful Star Talent: Vincent Spano and Traci Lords
My Description: Though I am loathe to admit it, I have actually seen more than half of this movie in a single sitting. It manages to resemble a really pretentious episode of "The Highlander" TV series - and I mean even more pretentious than that time Adrian Paul fought mimes - by using Batmanesque camera angles and long heavily processed shots of people walking around. If you've got Vincent Spano walking around in an eye-patch you can bet your movie is not going to make Ebert's ten best of the year list. Traci Lords' contribution to the film was to make me think that I was watching some sort of late 90s videogame cut scene. This caused me to repeatedly mash a nearby PS2 controller trying to skip the tediously long and idiotic mission briefings.
Suck Factor: The Sci-Fi Channel's site for this movie heaps ridiculous praise on "Deathlands" by claiming; "Director and editor Joshua Butler and cinematographer Bruce Worrall jolt the screen with fast-moving, stiletto-sharp cuts and some of [sic] most eloquently elegiac violence since the heydays of Peckinpah and Argento." Let me start by laughing about that, and then continue by laughing at the fact that there are over 50 "Deathlands" books in print. It makes sense though, by the Sci-Fi Channel's logic the more the better, which is why we have all of those fucking movies about giant snakes. In my opinion, if you're writing a fiction series and it gets past about book number eight then you're either L. Ron Hubbard or you're doing fan fiction about "Forever Knight".
Sci-Fi Description: Before the dawn comes, all will deal with the horror of death, the reality of monsters, and the devastating confirmation that crop circles may not be merely innocent signs, but silent warnings.
Pitiful Star Talent: Stephen Baldwin and Billy Zane
I Can't Believe Sci-Fi Said the Following: A remarkably talented young cast, abetted by a wildly entertaining Stephen Baldwin performance and Billy Zane's fresh and utterly non-clichéd depiction of a small-town sheriff, help turn this suspenseful alien-abduction story into compelling human drama. Filmmaker Christian McIntire, who directed SCI FI Pictures' Lost Voyage and Antibody and produced and edited the independent hit Interceptor Force, has taken his work to a new level, his camera eye going from vertiginous fluidity to morning-light naturalism as each scene's emotional content demands.
My Description: Holy fucking shit. I can't believe Sci-Fi had the balls on their site to come out and say things like "vertiginous fluidity" and "fresh and utterly non-clichéd" in the same paragraph as "Billy Zane" and "Stephen Baldwin". I also can't believe they did not get sued by Touchstone for blatantly stealing the story and "vertiginous fluidity" of M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs". While I'm sure they at least didn't include Shyamalan's dubious plot device of "naked aliens that are killed by water", I somehow doubt that such an omission made "Silent Warnings" any more tolerable. Even the title is a bad imitation of "Signs". They might as well have called it "S1gns" or "Sines".
Suck Factor: Stephen Baldwin, possibly the least competent of the Baldwin clan, is killed off before the second commercial break, robbing the movie of the incredible gravitas he brought to his role as "kooky dipshit". The main players in the film are unknowns, who shamble about acting like they failed their audition as a fluffer for Ron Jermey's latest epic. As for Billy Zane and his "fresh and utterly non-clichéd depiction", well, Billy Zane plain and simple is incapable of acting. He does not act. Some people seem to like him, but I'm sorry to tell them that they're wrong. If Zane's acting was "fresh and non-clichéd" it's because they wrote a character who was a well-spoken mastermind and then Zane came in and choked out the lines he read off of the teleprompter.
Sci-Fi Description: [They] step in an [sic] parallel Chicago gone damned. Now these four simple men find themselves trapped in a maddening mirror-world where savage, cannibalistic humans with spider appendages stalk and swarm. Yet there, too, a dwindling band of survivors - led by the beautiful ELENA, the lethal CRANE and long-lost scientist DR. MORELLI - fight back with primitive weapons ... and try not to dwell on the fact they've no chance of defeating the growing storm of spider-people and their monstrous, otherworldly Spider Queen.
Pitiful Star Talent: Richard Grieco
My Description: I'll give Sci-Fi a tiny bit of credit on this one, because at least the plot did not involve either directly ripping off another movie or a team of the world's most elite special forces men fighting aliens. Richard Grieco has reached a point in his career where he pretty much accepts that he belongs in this sort of movie. I mean sure, we all expected his TV-show "Booker" to be a huge hit after how great he was on "21 Jump Street", but he really didn't have the talent to hang a career as a leading man on. The funniest aspect of the site for this movie is how big a deal Sci-Fi makes out of the director being David Wu. That's right; the guy who coordinated the stunts for John Woo movies is also somehow qualified to direct films about spider people in an alternate dimension. Well, okay, actually yeah, he is probably qualified for that.
Suck Factor: Most of the cast aside from Grieco are Sci-Fi Original staples. They're of the same sort of caliber of actor and actress as you would expect from someone with a recurring guest star role on "Sliders". In fact, go ahead and add to that the plot is a lot like "Sliders" and the special effects are just as bad as they were on "Sliders". I think I'm starting to convince myself that this was actually a "Sliders" movie. I guess Jerry O'Connell was busy doing the DVD commentary for "Kangaroo Jack" during the long afternoon it took to shoot and edit "Webs".
Sci-Fi Description: A small town, desperate to recover from hard economic times, is under threat when voracious Snakehead fish mutate and survive previous lake chemical poisonings. The fish transform from pests to predators when human growth hormones are dumped into the local lake in the hopes of reviving the local fishing industry. Thriving on the hormones, the Snakehead fish grow to monstrous proportions, devouring everything within reach. Capable of moving and eating on land, they are forced to leave the now barren lake in a desperate search for food - animal, vegetable or human.
Pitiful Star Talent: Bruce Boxleitner and Carol Alt
My Description: Even Bruce Boxleitner, whose career has been a tragic downward spiral from the moment "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" was cancelled despite what "Babylon 5" fans might believe, should have passed on "Snakehead Terror". This movie actually rivals "Boa vs. Python" for conceptual stupidity and manages to trump it by claiming it is based on a true story. Yes, the location is real, and yes, some snakeheads grew to exceptionally large sizes in that area, but I doubt any of them prowled the woods and leapt through the air to bite off people's limbs. Snakehead Terror is almost exactly like James Cameron's legendary "Piranha 2: The Spawning", only the special effects are much worse and the movie is actually more violent than the R-rated "Piranha 2".
Suck Factor: The movie is a non-stop gore fest rendered comical by the fact that the snakeheads look like sock puppets dipped in mud. Boxleitner seems to take his role quite seriously, adding a tragic element as you watch Tron himself square his chin and fire guns at Sesame Street fish. Carol Alt plays Carol Alt pretending to be a biologist who arrives to help determine the source of the freakishly large and aggressive snakeheads. If you get what you pay for then I'm hoping the people who financed "Snakehead Terror" provided roughly three dollars for props and another two dollars for Carol Alt.
I find it hard to believe that the Sci-Fi Channel continues to produce movies this bad. My reasoning for this is that there are probably hundreds of science fiction screenwriters and directors out there trying to break out. They could be given a quarter of the budget of, say, "Boa vs. Python" and proceed to turn out the next "Pi" or even "Death Race 2000". They could attract more viewers with more original movies, spend less money, and possibly even win critical acclaim. Instead Sci-Fi seems obsessed with parroting the latest high-budget theatrical release or cobbling together some monstrosity about genetic experiments, giant snakes, or super secret alien-fighting commandos.
For fuck's sake, even straight-to-video mavens "Full Moon Entertainment" used to churn out an endless parade of infinitely better films that usually made up for what they lacked in budget and talent with some desperately needed humor. Give the Polonia brothers 50,000 dollars and they'll make a more entertaining film than anything Sci-Fi has produced.