The Killer Snakes (1974)

On the surface, this movie delivers exactly what it promises. There’s a bunch of snakes and they kill people. I don’t imagine that a movie called The Killer Snakes owes me a lot more than that, but did it have to be so horribly scuzzy?

I think it’s also safe to say after watching this movie that animal rights organizations didn’t have too high a profile in Hong Kong in the early 1970s. Animal abuse in this movie runs rampant and there’s several scenes that could easily compete with any number of Italian jungle cannibal movies for sheer gross out value.

You’ll also be grossed out by the sweaty psycho at the epicenter of this swirling mass of grubby horror due to his being drenched in his own perspiration constantly while wearing a tight, yucky pink shirt. And his skin condition. And his predilection for having flashbacks involving peeking his mom and her lover!

So yes, the movie does a more than adequate job of giving us a character who we easily believe could snap one day, befriend a bunch of snakes, and use them to carry out his revenge schemes. The only problem is that this guy is so nasty and creepy that you can’t wait for his snake friends to wake up and realize that they’re just being used and turn on him!

Zhihong lives in a shack next to the neighborhood snake shop. I must not live in a big enough city because we don’t have a snake shop, but this snake shop looks to be the Chinese equivalent of a General Nutrition Center where they make your supplements fresh, right there while you wait.

Instead of paying some outrageous price for dubious male enhancement products with equally dubious names like Horny Goat Weed though, customers at General Reptile Center are paying to eat snake gall bladders. I imagine that snakes everywhere in the Orient breathed a bit easier when Pfizer came to their rescue with Viagra!

Even though Zhihong is the scariest loser imaginable, there’s a hot mama who is hanging around making eyes at him. Her name is Xiujuan and she runs some sort of booth near Zhihong’s house. Zhihong has a crush on her, but instead of ambling next door, asking to borrow a cup of snake gall bladders, and gathering up his courage and asking her out, he sits at home staring at his bondage magazines and playing with himself!

After losing his job due to some bullying hookers and johns as well as being stood up by Xiujuan for a date, Zhihong is surprised to see he has a visitor from the snake shop. It’s a snake that’s had its gall bladder removed, but it is still alive and Zhihong takes a liking to it and sews its wound right up, naming him Xiaobiao in the process. (Any psychiatrist will tell you that once you’ve starting having conversations with escaped reptiles and lose interest in you porn mags, it’s a sure sign that you’ve completely gone over the edge!)

It isn’t long before Zhihong gets into another confrontation with the gang of hookers and johns. This time though you’ve got Zhihong screaming “bite her dead!” at Xiaobiao and you get your first snake attack.

These snake attacks are never really that impressive since it either requires a guy out of camera range to thrust a snake at someone or for the same guy to just heave snakes at people, giving us that whole “flying snake” phenomena you only see in movies about killer snakes.

Even though Zhihong’s life is finally looking up (having an army of murderous snakes that kill hookers is an improvement for this guy), his ex-crush, Xiujuan, is forced to make some difficult decisions.

After the death of her father, her friend urges her to become a hooker to start paying the bills. Xiujuan reluctantly agrees since it’s just common sense to sell your body when you’re confronted by a family crisis and she starts hanging out with a scuzzy guy that her friend sets her up with.

The various rapes and murders that follow culminate when the snakes attack a guy armed with samurai sword. This results in slow motion shots of live snakes being chopped in half. You even get to see their parts writhing on the ground!

Whether that’s the most offensive scene in a movie rife with such moments is debatable since you’ve still got the part left where Zhihong decides that he needs to get rid of Xiaobiao and his fellow snakes before the police close in by burning them alive!

This movie has something to repulse everyone! Women, animal lovers, people adverse to perspiration. It’s all there. No sleazy stone is left unturned!

But it’s not only an ugly movie, it’s an ugly-looking movie. Maybe the shaky zooming shots work fine in the bulk of other Shaw Brothers films that revolve around kung fu action, but in a horror film, it doesn’t come across as a stylistic choice so much as a guy being unable to operate the camera properly.

Ultimately, The Killer Snakes is just a run of the mill “loser gets revenge with the help of some creepy animals” story you’ve seen before but soaked in a gross combination of off-putting hump scenes and gag-inducing scenes of animal violence. (Just for the record, the off-putting hump scenes were also gag-inducing.)

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