Luke Perry fights giant mutant serpents as they take over his submarine in SILENT VENOM, a new action thriller coming to DVD on June 2nd (also stars Tom Berenger and Krista Allen).
Let’s dissect that marketing for a second. Right out of the gate it has the wower that is Luke Perry fighting not just snakes, but giant mutant serpents. Sell over! But the pitch doesn’t end there, oh no. 20th Century Fox Home Video then slips us the shocker, this Perry v Reptilia cage match is confined to the steel tube of a, most assuredly nuclear, submarine. Then BAM! “Also stars Tom Berenger and Krista Allen”, a closer so blatant in its call and yet so subtle in its cull as to be delivered within nonchalant parenthesis, as if Tom “Eat shit, DANGEROUS MINDS” Berenger and Krista “I ruled Peter’s adolescent late night cable world” Allen also fighting giant mutant serpents on a deep sea vessel of sheer terror are not a bigger deal than novelty Luke Perry.
This is plastic surgery and plastic snakes by the gallon, people. You know the score, I know the score:
SILENT VENOM is exactly what we all expect it to be, marketers included; hard times filmmaking. But that’s the draw! Schlock has its audience, an audience more often than not I find myself gleefully pledged to. I dig it when the biggest name in a movie about soldiers fighting a biggie sized version of a creature normally found in a garden is a name that hit its apex a decade a go. I dig it when the special effects rival that of adverts for nasal decongestant medication. I dig it because when all these hard time ingredients glam together there is a pressing chance that all involved throw caution to the wind and have a blast with their schlocky material.
Unfortunately SILENT VENOM is not of that beaten down pedigree. SILENT VENOM is dead serious, which means it is a dead boring 90 minutes of generic (and repeating) set pieces, generic effects and generic performances lathered atop a premise attractive only because of its circus nature. It’s times like this that a writer has to kitchen sink a script and a director has to go big or go home. D grade flicks like SILENT VENOM need to take a cue from the A grade feature porn world. Cast actors who don’t mind getting compromised on screen, actors who will duck a giant snake with an ear to ear smile. Back story and character motivation need be verbose only if it adds to the energy of it. The situations and calamity of it all are the money shots, not the lame effects.
Stick to that formula and you’ll get a genuinely fun CROC or MAMMOTH, or even something servicable like ROCK MONSTER. Otherwise you’re just wasting everyone’s time. And I don’t need to waste anyone’s time explaining the plot of SILENT VENOM, just know that Krista Allen is a scientist genetically engineering some snakes that get loose on a sub during transport. That tidbit completes the Plain Jane stage. There’s no side conflict, no major complications due to the setting and no grinning side kicks to bring some levity. Mark Sanderson’s script really is just a good looking scientist on a submarine that happens to be the location of occasional, and I stress occasional, snake attacks.
For their parts, Perry, Allen and Berenger are good enough, though the latter is barely in the picture. If SILENT VENOM were a concert, Perry and Allen’s boring roles play center stage. Not even on second stage, banished to the parking lot, playing on cobbled together instruments are the serpents. Despite being the motivating factor for everything in the script, the snakes are barely on screen. In SyFy Channel destined flicks it is normal to expect a build to the big reveal of a snake with a hyperthyroid, but SILENT VENOM’s big reveal is a cough and a sneeze more present than all the little deaths at its foundation.
Still, one can’t knock a SILENT VENOM too much. Intentions are innocent enough and viewer expectations are dead-to-rights. I may want to inflate the pitch, to dream a geeky dream of epic writhing battles on a submarine, of Luke Perry using his plataeu of a forehead to head butt a snake that’s just ripped off part of Krista Allen’s shirt while Tom Berenger teaches rough and tumble youth snakes that this cockmamey bullshit don’t fly on his sub watch. I dream, I may hope, but I know what’s what. I couldn’t recommend SILENT VENOM to anyone not prepared to use it as the ruleset for a drinking game. Even then, I’d recommend you be drunk before the game even starts. Luke Perry needs all the help he can get.