The Tomb of Terror – The Intruder (2010) – SIFF Film Review
Every Saturday night The Tomb of Terror opens, unleashing reviews of the obscure and the classic in horror cinema.
CGI killed the creature feature. It made it so we have direct to video lines made up of entirely nature gone amok films featuring cheap, cartoony looking killer animals. It made it so that every other week on the Sci-Fi channel (I refuse to call it by its ridiculous new moniker), we are treated to some washed-up actor fighting off a beast that bounces around like Yoda in Attack of the Clones. Back in the 1970s, we had a wave a classic nature gone amok films that followed in the wake of Willard and Jaws. The monsters you saw in those films were a mixture of real footage of a threatening animal intercut with an animatronic mock-up. They might not have always been the most convincing beasts to grace the silver screen, but they had a weight and presence that CGI (especially cheap CGI) just doesn’t. The Intruder is a new killer snake film from Thailand that is screening at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival and might’ve been a bit better if it didn’t rely almost 100% on CGI for its creepy crawlies.
You know how in creature features there’s some explanation for why a killer animal is on the loose? Usually in the opening scene we see toxic waste being dumped onto it or a mad scientist messing with its genetic structure. There’s none of that in The Intruder. This is a film where thousands of cobras invade an apartment complex in Thailand for no other reason than Thailand is apparently overrun with cobras. Now I’m not from Thailand, but something tells me that the people there aren’t constantly stepping over hordes of snakes when they walk to the market. This is the set-up we get in this film. There are cobras everywhere, so you better put sulfur (?) around the perimeter of your house to keep them out. Later in the film, a supernatural explanation is trotted out to explain the cobra army (I’ll talk about that later), but as the film starts the characters are acting like it’s a normal thing to live in a town overrun by snakes.
Once it’s been established that snakes are everywhere, we move inside the apartment building. There, we meet our motley crew of tenants who we will follow throughout the film. There’s a rock band practicing away in their soundproofed jam room, a father who skips out on his wife and daughter to have a fling with a sultry neighbor, three nerds playing video games and spying on the adulterous escapades next door, and a girl who’s interning at a local newspaper. These characters are more of the filler, bodies for snakes to chomp on. Our main characters are a trio of firemen responding to a snake bite call in the building. One of them was recently dumped by the young owner of the apartment complex. He tries to convince her to take him back, but then a mound of cobras begins to make its way through the apartment. You mean they got through the sulfur?
The sequences showing the initial cobra attacks are the best in the film. In rapid succession, we see several characters bite it, and others trying to stay safe from the snapping cobras. Some of these death scenes we’ve seen before. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a horror film where a monster moves up a girl’s leg and she thinks it’s her lover. That old standby is trotted out, but it’s mixed with some fun bits of nastiness. My favorite is the young pervert watching a naked young lady through a peephole. Does a snake jump through the hole and bite his eye? You bet it does! But it doesn’t stop there. The character grabs the snake and tries to pull it off of his eye and ends up popping the damn thing out of his head!
Our surviving characters now find themselves moving further and further up the apartment building, hoping to steer clear of the swelling mass of snakes coming after them. This is where I have to continue my CGI rant. There are many fun moments of snake mayhem in this film, as I mentioned before. The problem is that in every attack scene a CGI snake is used. It’s painfully obvious that the actor is not interacting with this menace that would look at home in a Playstation 2 game. Since there’s no tie to reality, these animated snakes are also able to accomplish many ridiculous feats, including jumping great heights to get at our protagonists. During the rare moments where real snakes are trotted out, it’s only for long shots where they aren’t interacting with the characters.