Calamity of Snakes
Dir. Chi Chang (1982)
When a real estate developer decides to kill a bunch of snakes on the property of his most recent development, he brings the wrath of every snake in the vicinity down onto his new tenants.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
This one was hard to watch, as I suppose can be expected of movies that fit into Unearthed Films’ releases, but for a very different reason than most. Filled to the brim with real-life killings of all kinds of snakes, Calamity of Snakes is one of the more bizarre films I’ve seen in recent memory and a movie that can only be recommended to true fans of Asian Cat III films, or people who just don’t like reptiles one bit. While I’m not a huge fan of our legless friends, I still have absolutely no desire to see them chopped, burned, and karate chopped (seriously) to death in real life, so this one was one that I don’t believe I’d find myself watching too many more times.
Make no mistake about it, though: this film is fucking bonkers. Despite the film playing the murder of these reptiles as a horrible (and even offensive to the Gods) thing, there was still a five-minute montage of people beating a bunch of snakes to death. It’s basically a disaster movie with snakes in place of earthquakes and tornadoes, and it’s got the type of Cat III insanity that involves fighting a giant boa constrictor with kung fu and flying snakes being attacked with flamethrowers. While most of the movie is difficult to watch because of the real-life gore, the latter part of the film, while still containing these horrible scenes, is also just batshit insanity wall-to-wall. Asynchronous editing, along with almost constant bizarre tonal shifts, leaves the audience mouth agape at times and laughing hysterically at others.
Calamity of Snakes is the very definition of an exploitation film, and I cannot stress enough that there are literally hundreds of snake murders throughout. Thankfully, if you are able to pick up the new release from Unearthed Films, there’s actually a cruelty-free version included on the disc for those who are unable (or unwilling) to watch scenes of animal cruelty. They are also donating a portion of their proceeds to Save the Snakes, a charity that focuses on, well, saving the snakes that are endangered and need help (and you can check out their awesome mission at savethesnakes.org). The insanity in the film really brings some interesting philosophical questions to film restoration and love of awful movies from yesteryear, and I commend Unearthed for trying to answer some of these questions in the way they are best fit to answer them.
Case in point: what do you do when you want to save films, as the pieces of art that they are and have been for a century, but the films contain reprehensible scenes that simply could not be put on film today? Is there a place for films like Triumph of the Will or Birth of a Nation? How can you ignore the historical import of moves like this, despite the reprehensibility of their message? What about movies like Milo & Otis, a movie I hold near and dear to my heart from childhood but is practically unwatchable today due to allegations of animal cruelty to all of the film’s animal stars? Are these movies that we just shouldn’t watch anymore, despite the fact that any terrible actions committed by the makers of the films happened long ago and certainly can’t be undone at this point? What about movies that were made in countries where these actions weren’t regulated at all, and the makers of said films are no longer around to receive the proceeds of their work? Ruggero Deodato, who recently passed away, featured legitimate animal cruelty in his seminal cannibal movie Cannibal Holocaust. While this might make the film hard to watch for certain segments of the population, does it remove any artistic merit from the film itself?
Calamity of Snakes is no Cannibal Holocaust, to be sure, but it is art nonetheless, and it is a fantastic representation of the absolute bonkers films that were being made in Asia in the 70’s and early 80’s. The rich history of Asian Cat III films, which are movies that were classified as “Adults Only” by the Hong Kong film industry, cannot be ignored, and I personally believe that it’s a wonderful thing that companies like Unearthed Films are bringing some of these forgotten, and often lost, films to light, regardless of the disgraceful content that is often present within the movies themselves. As a true film historian and someone who appreciates movies for which it is hard to find an audience, I applaud them for their attempts to rediscover these movies that would otherwise be lost to history. Calamity of Snakes may be hard to watch, but its also well worth a watch for those who appreciate these hidden gems of absolute anarchy.
Who this movie is for: Asian Cat III horror fans, Lost film lovers, Ophidiophobics (people who are scared of snakes, obviously)
Bottom line: Mean and despicable but also hilarious and bonkers-as-all-hell, Calamity of Snakes fits perfectly into Unearthed Films oeuvre of misbegotten movies. It’s equal parts wackiness and insanity, a deliriously deranged film that will make you cringe as often as it will make you laugh at the absurdity of it all. Thankfully, its all for a good cause, with part of the proceeds of the film going to the Save the Snakes charity organization to help prevent films like this from ever being made again. If you’re in the market for a film that is 100% bananas, and you don’t mind seeing giant rubber snakes get roundhouse kicked and lit on fire, this is definitely the film for you.