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Silent Predators
cast: Jack Scalia, Harry Hamlin, Shannon Sturges, David Spielberg, and Patty McCormack

director: Noel Nosseck

90 minutes (12) 1999
Prism Leisure DVD Region 2 retail
[released 25 July]

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Tony Lee
John Carpenter is one of three writers credited for the script of this fairly lame TV movie, directed by Noel Nosseck (who is perhaps best known for Tornado!, with Bruce Campbell). Silent Predators is about a bunch of mutant-rattlesnakes on the rampage in small-town USA, and it was developed (or maybe leaked is a more accurate term), from Carpenter's un-filmed 1970s' script 'Fangs'.

Harry Hamlin is the fire-chief and main hero Vic, Jack Scalia plays the capitalist-bastard villain Max, David Spielberg portrays the worried yet ineffectual Mayor, various people get bitten by noiseless rattlers, and it all ends in near-tragedy for blonde heroine Mandy (Shannon Sturges), of course. Yes, this is clearly a belated addition to the 1980s and 1990s' cycle of ecologically aware 'disaster movies' principally concerned with nature's revenge on mankind for our stupidity and meddling ways. The opening sequence sets up the premise with a road accident that results in some especially dangerous snakes escaping into the wilds, where they breed rapidly. Predictably, it's a property development, with a new phase of construction in progress just as the ever-growing population of snakes emerge from hibernation, which creates most of the human versus reptile confrontations. The housing project breaches the rattlers' nest, a territorial dispute is inevitable, but hardly anyone mentions or even remembers that (historically) snakes were here first...

The familiar TV stars do their best with the material, yet their meagre talents fail to enliven any of this humdrum production's dramas. I'd suggest that, for Hamlin and Scalia, it's always been the case, considering their other cinema or TV works. As the unbearably inexpressive Perseus, I've always thought it was Hamlin that spoilt the great potential of Ray Harryhausen's mythical fantasy swansong, Clash Of The Titans (1981), while former athlete/ model and B-movie stalwart, Scalia, who first attracted keen genre fans' attention in Paul Michael Glaser's schlock feminist adventure, Amazons (1984), has rarely bought anything like a genuine presence to his varied roles, whether he's the top-billed star and action hero (as in the feeble Pointman, 1994) or merely a supporting player (Abel Ferrara's Fear City, 1985).

There's precious little else to be said about Silent Predators (well, at least they used mostly real snakes instead of unconvincing CGI stuff! - So I'm giving this review an extra point for that), and nothing really in favour of it, I'm afraid. The protracted finale is (unsurprisingly) free of tension or suspense - there's a veritable plague of poisonous snakes waiting to happen, but it's hard not to just sigh, tiredly, and go and put the kettle on before the film ends. This is definitely one for Carpentry completists only.

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