Raw and Uncompromising: the Unforgettable Horror of Snakesploitation Cinema
Calamity Of Snakes (Ren she da zhan)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror
Year Released: 1982, 2023 Unearthed Classics Blu-ray
Runtime: 1h 36m
Director(s): Chi Chang
Writer(s): Chi Chang, Kang-Nien Li, Kuo Jung Tsai
Cast: Ping-Ou Wei, Yuen Kao, Yun-Peng Hsiang
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin, English with English subtitles
Where To Watch: Releasing April 25, 2023, available for pre-order now at www.unearthedfilms.com or www.mvdshop.com
RAVING REVIEW: In CALAMITY OF SNAKES, a luxurious apartment construction site turns into a slithering nightmare when workers stumble upon a giant snake den. The relentless project developer orders the extermination of the serpents to avoid delays, ignoring his wife's horrifying visions. Unbeknownst to him, the incomplete extermination leaves a legion of vengeful snakes, led by a monstrous boa, to seek retribution against the construction crew and the building's future residents.
So fair warning, this film is a lot to take, primarily because what you see in it is very real. There wasn’t CGI then, and the film snakes were all real (at least the majority were.) Directed by Chi Chang, CALAMITY OF SNAKES is a roller coaster that can only be experienced firsthand. It's loaded with striking and unforgettable scenes, the film does not hold back, and it knows what it is. A “cruelty-free” version on the Unearthed Classics release allows you to still enjoy the film's narrative without watching the cruel parts if you’re an animal lover. Admirers of intense Asian horror films may find it captivating though it’s a personal choice.
The film's title fittingly reflects the chaos and destruction that unfolds. If you don’t like snakes, this is not the film for you. However, this is a must-see if you want to watch cinema that pushes the boundaries. A movie like this will never be made again; even though some look at snakes as a nuisance, the reality is that hundreds were killed for this film, and that just wouldn’t fly. Thankfully we have CGI that could rival some of the scenes in this film if a remake was ever done.
Venturing into Snakesploitation, CALAMITY OF SNAKES provides a memorable viewing experience that will stick with its audience. I had never heard of the film when I first got it, but I will never forget it after watching it. No matter how you feel about all of the violence in the movie, some of these scenes will forever be burned into your mind. For those who can set aside this aspect, the film delivers an unconventional yet entertaining experience.
Amid the chaos, there's even a wire-fu faceoff between a snake handler and a 20-foot rubber boa constrictor. The grand finale showcases an epic confrontation between flamethrower-wielding men, a samurai sword-brandishing hero, and the snake army, culminating in a spectacular display.
A simple example of an exploitation film, CALAMITY OF SNAKES pushes the envelope and exemplifies the extremes of 1980s Asian cinema, leaving a lasting impression on film history.
Even though the Taiwanese town's inhabitants, where the movie was shot, reportedly consumed the dead snakes, their brutal demise remains hard to stomach. I’ve never been a huge fan of snakes, but the cruel ways they were killed still make me uneasy. I will revisit the film and watch the cruelty-free version because it must be an entirely different experience, and it will be interesting to see how different it is.
In a nutshell, CALAMITY OF SNAKES is an example of raw exploitation cinema. The film's audaciousness, shock, and unpredictability hold viewers' attention. If you like movies that shock, this is a must-own; I’ve seen thousands of films and never seen anything like it!
- From Shaw To Snakes: The Venom And Violence Of Early Chinese Language Horror Cinema
- Reptilian Recollections: Lin Kuang-Yung In Conversation With Chui-Yi Chung
- Original English Dub
- Commentary with Nathan Hamilton and Brad Slaton
- Cruelty-Free Version
- Alternate Version
- Alternate Credits
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[photo courtesy of UNEARTHED FILMS/MVD ENTERTAINMENT]