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SERPENT (2017)

Directed by Amanda Evans
Written by Amanda Evans
Starring Tom Ainsley, Sarah Dumont

SERPENT is a simplistic, yet effective movie that most likely wasn’t made on much, but still maintains a big budget quality because of how conservative it is with its elaboration. What plays out is a simple tale of man vs. nature and man vs. man, laced with all kinds of biblical metaphor.

Insect researcher Adam and his wife Gwynneth (Tom Ainsley & Sarah Dumont) are a married couple in peril long before they decide to go into the wild and investigate what may be the discovery of a new beetle. Gwynneth is trying to get over an extra-marital affair, though her suitor is persistent in keeping the relationship going by calling, texting, and stalking her. Adam, buried in his own work, is clueless of the affair, and seems to love his wife very much. When the two head out into the woods, Gwynneth seems to intend on giving the relationship another chance, but isn’t able to address the issue when a venomous snake gets into the couple’s tent, forcing them to remain still and calm, lest they suffer a deadly bite in the middle of nowhere.

Let’s get the biblical metaphors out of the way first. You can’t have a lead character named Adam and a snake in the story without seeing a lot of references to the Original Sin tale from the bible. Gwynneth (our Eve) bites from the apple of sin and thus puts the couple in peril and while they are not cast out of the Garden of Eden, they are destined to be a chew toy for a venomous snake. While steeped in this metaphor, it isn’t so thick as to cause too much eye-rolling. This is mainly due to the strength of the directing and the acting chops of the two actors in peril. Because of some strong edits filled with slithery closeups of the snake sliding across and over and under the couple as they stay perfectly still in their tent. Both actors do a good job conveying the claustrophobic atmosphere that is thick in this film and writer/director Amanda Evans does a pretty fantastic job of keeping the tension taut for the bulk of the film.

That said, I’m no snake expert, but I think that if you were trapped in a tent and wanted to use a sleeping bag to trap it, it wouldn’t be strong enough to overpower you as the snake does in this film. I also think that, in most cases, the animal in proximity of a human, would not continue to pursue that human once it is out in the wild. Instead, I think that it would simply slither away as snakes, like most animals, aren’t attacking out of ill intent, just survival. Still, I’ll give it to SERPENT. If we can believe three sailors can track down a shark in the middle of the ocean as it attacks them over and over again in JAWS, I can give a little slack to SERPENT for giving the snake a bit of a surly and vengeful personality.

SERPENT works in building tension, staking high investment in the characters, and creating a truly skin-crawling environment. Amanda Evans lays the metaphor on thick, but succeeds in doing a lot with very little. The film only runs about an hour ten, but in that runtime, she delivers a potent and powerful little animal run amok film worth seeking out.

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