Directed by William Cheung Kei, produced by Tsai-Ching Wang and starring Yun-Peng Hsiang, Yuen Kao, Ping-Ou Wei and Lui Cheung.
An unscrupulous businessman orders his workers to kill loads of snakes infesting a construction site. After a new apartment complex is built there, thousands of snakes return and attack the building’s occupants to get their revenge.
This Hong Kong-Taiwanese movie features the killing of lots of live snakes and unashamedly shows the deaths in loving detail, so be warned before you decide to give CALAMITY OF SNAKES a watch. If you can stomach these mondo moments of real-life reptile butchery, then the movie certainly delivers on its promise of multiple moments of snake-attack mayhem!
The film starts as it means to go on, with the slaying of various species of snake infesting a pit during the building of a new apartment development in Taiwan, owned by Mr Chang. Ignoring the protests of his architect, Chang refuses to deal with them humanely, ordering his workers to splat the serpents with shovels instead. Chang himself gets in on the act by using a digger to dice more snakes.
Continuing this theme of snake-related nastiness, we then see a live snake being slit open and skinned alive for its bladder at a market. Not too long after this, the snakes start to strike back, as foreseen by Chang’s superstitious wife, beginning with an attack on a construction worker and a call girl… as they have sex!
Attempting to deter any further snake assaults, Chang’s geeky righthand man employs the services of a snake expert, who sprinkles a powdery concoction of cement, tobacco and sulphur around the place because “all snakes fear these things”. After a rainstorm washes away the powder, the snakes return, so Chang uses mongooses to deal with some of the serpents.
The director obviously believed viewers really, really wanted to watch a lot of mongoose vs snake action, because he presents us with an extended series of close-up mammals-murdering-reptiles shots. This sequence just goes on and on!
Realising that he needs more than mongooses, Chang calls in a snake-hunting master, a dude with white eyebrows, who we first see performing some kind of stage show, pulling a snake from his mouth and allowing it to bite his tongue. It is theorised that a boa is influencing the other snakes to attack en masse, so the master sets out to kill it.
In an over the top confrontation in a storage building, the master fights the large boa, which bites off some of his fingers, leaps about energetically and roars! This is an enjoyably kinetic, fast-moving scene, shot like a kung fu fight, that sees the master use a rope to finally strangle the big snake. The master leaves, assuming his job is done… but it’s shown that there’s another boa lurking around.
The focus of the movie shifts to the newly opened apartment building now, where we are introduced to various characters, including rich, old guys, a precocious child, and a large lady who loves her food. These stock characters, plus more scenes involving the cost-cutting boss and the idealistic architect, give CALAMITY OF SNAKES a vibe reminiscent of 70s disaster movies.
There are some incredibly lowbrow comic moments added to the cheesy mix, including a scene where speeded-up footage of the overweight woman eating too much food is intercut with shots of a pig with its snout in a trough, though there fortunately aren’t too many of these ‘funny’ scenes!
When snakes start flying up out of the building’s basement level and begin to infest the complex, slithering into lifts and overflowing into lobbies and bedrooms, the actors are soon rolling around the place, with loads of real, writhing snakes crawling over their bodies and faces. The snakes in this movie are obviously treated badly, but the actors don’t fare much better, as an endless flood of real reptiles are hurled at them! I do hope these thespians were paid well enough!
There are a lot of snakes used during this finale, and I do mean a LOT! Entire corridors are deluged with slithering serpents. There are snakes in punchbowls, snakes in the bath, snakes on the reception desk and a tsunami of snakes that spill from a lift!
Chang, at one point, grabs a samurai sword and the movie treats us to a sequence featuring the slo-mo hacking of snakes, complete with close-ups of the various portions of the decapitated reptiles twitching on the floor.
The fire department is eventually called and dudes in snazzy silver boots & helmets come to the rescue, chopping up snakes with fire axes and spraying them with extinguishers. But even the firemen have trouble dealing the second big, roaring boa, forcing them to resort to using flamethrowers! This, of course, gives the filmmakers the excuse to now present us with a multitude of shots of snakes being burned alive.
The boss boa is no pushover, however, especially as it fights like a martial arts master! The critter flies around the rooms, slapping away people with its coils (cue loud, kung fu-style punching noises) and it even hurls a large eagle statue and a drum kit at the firemen, then agilely leaps away from their flamethrowers!
The big puppet beast is finally set alight, whereupon it wraps itself around Chang, then constricts him and immolates him at the same time!
CALAMITY OF SNAKES is an unashamedly exploitative, schlocky, infamous extravaganza that comes across like a mad animals-attack genre film infused with 70s disaster flick trimmings. If you can withstand the many, many mondo shots of snake snuff footage hurled at your retinas (which is kind of hard to do), this is a dumb, fun, subtlety-free, unhinged, revolting-yet-watchable, one-of-a-kind creature feature that you’re not likely to forget in a hurry (for various reasons!)