Snake Disaster: Snake Island Attack (2022)

Rating: C+

Dir: Jimmy Liu
Star: Wang Yi, Gong Xiaojun, Li Kui, Zhang Xinyuan

When you use the word “snake” in your title, not once but twice, along with the words “disaster” and “attack”, you should understand this creates a certain set of expectations. In particular, for a high volume of reptilian mayhem. I appreciate there is marketing involved, and that a movie titled Snake Inconvenience might not sell as well. But the general lack of disaster here was still disappointing, even if the film had some other qualities, not specifically mentioned in the title. [And we can’t blame translation either, since the Chinese one is rendered by Google Translate into English as “Snake Plague: Fright on Snake Island”. Admittedly slightly more restrained, yet close enough to pass muster]

We are, once again, in the “searching for a lost relative” sub-genre of Chinese Animal Attack movies. In this case, magazine editor Li Tong (Wang) is seeking to find what happened to her father. He disappeared decades ago during a military expedition to a remote area, after an encounter with a giant snake which eats most of the platoon in a prologue. Along with her publisher, Gu Qiu (Gong), an immensely annoying and whiny videographer, and a small security team, including the charmingly named “Gina the kung-fu girl”, she heads to the area in search of the truth. Perhaps a bigger threat are the unfriendly locals, in particular jungle princess Lan Ran (Zhang), who holds a grudge against the outsiders, blaming them for the murder of her own father.

To be honest, the logic there is lost in translation. Her father was an outsider himself, a herbal medicine dealer who came to Snake Island, and was actually killed by the locals. So why take it out on an innocent band of visitors? I guess Lan Ran is too busy taking dips in jungle pools, and doing a remarkable job of remaining impeccably pretty, despite the lack of beauty parlours in the area. Anyway, one member of the party is bitten by a snake, having gazed upon Lan Ran during one of her dips. To save him, Tong and the rest of the group must venture into a nearby cave, in search of an antidote. They encounter a giant snake, apparently controlled by a mysterious, cloaked figure… whose identity will be absolutely no surprise to the viewer.

Eventually, we do get some snake vs. snake combat, Gina the kung-fu girl fights Lan Ran, and bad people get eaten, though sadly not the videographer. If you’re looking for carnage, you will probably be disappointed, as between prologue and climax, I don’t recall anyone dying due to a herpetological-related cause. However, with those expectations appropriately restrained, it’s still adequately entertaining. Zhang vamps it up to good effect, albeit having been absent from her acting classes on subtlety day, and is certainly one of the more memorable villains for the genre. The MVP here though, is likely her hair-dresser, for maintaining that perfect curl on Lan Rin’s forehead in a tropical rain-forest.

This review is part of our feature, When Chinese Animals Attack.