Serpent is a 2017 horror film about a romantic escape into nature that turns into the ultimate moment of reckoning when a husband and wife are trapped in a tent with a deadly snake.
Movies love deadly critters and our innate fear of creepy-crawlies have long been source for an entire subgenre of horror. From spiders and bees to cockroaches and more, if it ain’t cute, it’s been the villain of sorts in a movie. Now comes Amanda Evans‘ Serpent, a cryptic thriller with some genuinely icky snake moments in a movie with plenty of good going in that tries to be more than what the premise promises.
Adam (Tom Ainsley) and Gwynneth (Sarah Dumont) are not a happy couple, despite their efforts. He’s an entomologist on the verge of a new discovery, soon to travel to South Africa on an expedition in the works for months. Unexpectedly, Gwynneth comes home the night before and tells him she wants to go, for reasons we know but he doesn’t. Sensing something isn’t right, Adam nonetheless agrees, and they head into the wilds, eventually hiking to a desolate, isolated forest where they set up camp. It’s a good chance to reform, but in the dead of night, things take a dark turn. Adam wakes to learn that in their tent has slithered a Black Mamba, one of the most venomous snakes in nature, and one prone to attack when sensing movement. Now trapped, unable to move, the two must find a way to escape the tent or succumb to its bite, while a terrible secret threatens to divide them just as they need to work together.
Nothing like the possiblity of death to bring two people together. That’s the premise of a number of these kinds of films as imminent attack forces lovers to confess and confide. Truths are easy to come by when you’re most likely not going to last the night. However, unlike others, where characters are treading water in an ocean or running through a dense jungle, stuck in a tent presents all new challenges and would seem to be very limiting in terms of sustaining a full-length film. That’s why it’s a little surprising to find how well Serpent is able to pad it out. Their predicament remains logical and believable for the duration, or well, for most of it. It eventually devolves into cliché and an unnecessary battle that really trips up the works, but for a good deal, Evan’s, in her directorial debut, keeps thing quiet and psychological.
Naturally, as nearly all these films become, the story is metaphorical, the monsters giving chase, the very demons these people run from. That all works pretty effectively for a while, but strains for credibility in its final act when it all gets overwrought. These are good performances, but it’s hard to decipher what Evans might be going for, hinting at one thing at its close while an audio clue suggests another. The movie feels like it should be symbolic of something bigger, perhaps even a tale of humanity itself – the religious connections via a Garden of Eden serpent are present enough – and it avoids the larger horror elements the genre demands, however, it’s all too obscure to truly strike with the proper weight. Kudos to the filmmakers for their ambition and some very convincing snake wrangling, though be assured, this is not what it looks like.
Movie description: Serpent is a 2017 horror film about a romantic escape into nature that turns into the ultimate moment of reckoning when a husband and wife are trapped in a tent with a deadly snake.
Director(s): Amanda Evans
Actor(s): Tom Ainsley, Sarah Dumont