Sand Serpents

movie_1413Sand Serpents is an Action/Horror/Sci-fi Tv movie that was made for the Syfy channel by RHI Entertainment in 2009. Written by Raul Inglis and directed by Jeff Renfroe, Sand Serpents is the 17th film in the Maneater series. Most times when I pick out a horror movie, I can tell what it is that attracts me to them. Normally it’s due to the involvement of a particular actor/director or if it falls into one of my two favorite sub-genres (Slasher and Zombie respectively). Then sometimes we get a case such as this film, sneaking in due to flat out ridiculousness of the cover. All I was really expecting was a Tremors clone with US soldiers… boy did it deliver.

Sand serpents takes place in Afghanistan in the Badghis province and follows a military unit on their last mission. The film opens with the unit sweeping a seemingly abandoned outpost. When they come under fire from the Taliban, resulting in the surviving members of the team being captured. While the Taliban are discussing what to do with the captured soldiers they fall under attack by the titular monsters, that were awakened by an explosion during the ambush. The group free themselves of their bindings after the attack ends and are baffled by the disappearance of their attackers. They make their way back to the extraction point to leave via helicopter. But as they watch the chopper approach it is attacked and downed by one of the giant serpents. The soldiers flee from the great beast, but once again, not all of them survive the attack. They try to make an escape to a nearby refugee camp for assistance via a hot wired truck. While on approach to the camp the vehicle wrecks after a young afghan girl named Isla (Andreea Coscai) runs in from to warn them of that the road is mined up ahead. After an ensuing attack by the serpents another member of the team is lost. Inside the refugee camp the soldiers learn the Taliban have takes the sons of the refuge camp and force the families to build bombs in the hope their sons will be returned to them. The group tries to make another run after getting parts to repair their broken radio and fall under Taliban attack. While holding up, the Taliban are attacked by the serpents and devoured just as the previous group was. The soldiers are lead by Amal (Jonas Khan), Islas father to a Taliban camp under false pretenses, in hopes that he will find his son. After losing another member and radioing out for assistance the remain survivors have a despite bid for survival.

I really liked Chris Jarman as Sgt. Wilsion in this movie. In fact, most of the soldiers do a good job at being likable, with the exception of Jan Henle played by Tamara Hope. This might be due to that her character is suppose to be unlikable in the beginning, but we warm to her eventually. Well the filmmakers failed at that and Henle is the only character in this film I genuinely did not enjoy at all. The others were energetic and at least someone interesting, which is a bit of a compliment when I think of how little screen time they had individually.

Simply horrendous CGI effects plague this film left and right. Now anyone who’s seen Tremors tell you that giant underground worms eating people can be done well with practical effects. On the topic of Tremors this film blatantly rips it off. From the serpents being attracted to noise, sense vibrations, are hard to kill without the use of explosives and even they way the look moving underground.  With four sequels and a TV series I thought Tremors had the genre locked down and it does. But with success comes imitation, even it follows 19 years later.

So what’s my final thoughts? Well as far as being made for TV and being a pale imitation of a much better film its surprisingly ok. It’s by no means a great movie and never tries to be. The film has heart and the actors all do earnest portrayals and that’s what I look for in B horror films. I was presently surprised with the level of enjoyment I got out of this picture as I was terribly underwhelmed by one of its Maneater peers Swamp Devil. So it might be that I entered this film with such low expectations that I garnered so much enjoyment from it. So if you enjoy low end made for TV horror flicks with a so bad it’s good element, I would seriously recommend this film. But if you prefer a film with higher production and more memorable everything, stick to Tremors. 6.5/10

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