Wednesday, May 25, 2016

King Cobra (1999)

Back when video stores still existed, the method I used for picking out my rentals was pretty basic: was there something badass on the cover? This was a pretty unpredictable system even back then, and it would be basically useless today. But in the late 90's, it still could sometimes work, this was before today when half the time you're lucky if whatever photoshopped creature on the cover even appeared in the movie at all. So when I saw the giant Cobra on the cover of this VHS tape, I took a chance on it. Using this blind method, over the years, I watched a lot of movies I hated, I discovered a few that ended up being some of my all time favorites, and I saw a couple that were memorable just because of how stupid they were. King Cobra falls into the last category.

King Cobra the story of a deranged, misguided group of scientists who, in their attempt to make some kind of vaccine, instead make a horrible, chemically altered abomination that is a horrific mutation of what it was meant to be:

Oddly, the movie opts to abandon this plot line and instead follows some giant snake that escapes from the same lab. 

The majority of the running time for this movie is plotted like a poor man's JAWS, only with a cobra. The creature escapes to a small town and slowly people start getting killed. An autopsy reveals that one of the victims was killed with massive amounts of venom from a poisonous snake. So the townspeople understandably start getting scared of what might be out in the woods. Of course, since this movie is clearly ripping off JAWS, there has to be some kind of event that brings droves of people into the town for the creature to kill. Well, this particular town is known for its yearly beer festival, and the residents urge the mayor to call it off, due to possibility of a goddamn 30 foot cobra in the woods. Remember the scene in JAWS where the mayor refuses to close the beaches because he says it would cripple the economy of the town? Well, the mayor's reasoning in this movie isn't quite as sound. His reasoning was something along the lines of "Everyone will be hammered anyways, so who gives a shit?". And of course, no ripoff would be complete without also bringing in an "expert hunter" that specializes in snakes to come in and help them capture the animal, but more on that later. 


Drunk mayors aside, the plot is pretty basic. What makes the movie better than other similar ones of the era is the fact that the snake design is practical and not CGI, which starting getting extremely popular during the time this was made. It was made by the Chiodo brothers, which are the same guys that did Critters and Killer Klowns From Outer Space, among many others from the 80's and 90's. It's not there best work, but it easily looks better than say, for example, Python, which was released a year later, done completely in CGI, and looked like complete shit and has aged even worse. I find it sad the movies that used animatronics and puppetry 20 or 30 years ago still look good (even bad low budget horror movies from 1999), and CGI ages terribly basically across the board, outside of Jurrasic Park, and a few other rare exceptions, and yet computer animation has become the standard for almost all horror movies made today. A fun activity is to pick out a movie you loved as a kid that featured computer generated effects, and then cry when you realize just how terrible it looks today. A shitty movie called King Cobra probably looks better.

As I mentioned before, the movie introduces a snake expert that helps hunt the cobra and hopefully capture it. This is the other aspect of the film that was quite entertaining to me, because the snake hunter is played by Pat Morita, aka Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid. Do you remember when Mr. Miyagi kicked the leader of the Cobra Kai's ass? That scene was awesome, but at the time, I couldn't get the thought out of my head that it would have been even more awesome if he just fought an actual cobra instead. Luckily, the casting director felt the same way. Unfortunately they miss a huge opportunity by having the snake get drop kicked in the face by a character other than Pat Morita. That had to have known that they were screwing with the audience. You have a movie with Pat Morita fighting a giant snake, someone uses kung-fu on the fucking thing, and it NOT Mr. Miyagi?! Anyways, his character ends up being pretty annoying by the end, but it was still a cool visual to see him squaring off with a giant snake, even though they don't properly pay it off (like with a drop kick).

This movie isn't great but it's certainly better than a lot of the similar titles that were released at the time. The use of practical effects again elevate an otherwise forgettable horror movie to a pretty enjoyable one. Like I said about Project: Metalbeast, it's a good movie to put on while you drink some beers with friends. It keeps up the pace and there are some genuinely goofy moments that will have you laughing your ass off. Now that I've seen the King Cobra fight Mr. Miyagi, I'd love to see him take on some other celebrities, like The Rock, that would be awesome. Or wait, even better, he can fight The Rock as The Scorpion King, the character he played in the 2002 big-budget blockbuster! I loved that movie as a kid!

No comments:

Post a Comment