Rattlesnake 2019 - Snake, rattle and roll

Updated: Nov 15, 2019

I remember once looking around a local pet-shop that dealt in all things scaly and wonderful and noticing that in two separate vivariums, they had rattlesnakes. Now, I quite like snakes and have a couple as pets but mine are pretty safe to handle and even if they were to bite, it wouldn’t do any harm, and I’m speaking from experience here as one did accidentally bite me after attempting to grab the freshly thawed mouse I was putting in the tank when it missed and latched onto my hand. Obviously, I’m way too big for a mere 4ft corn snake to devour and I like to think that Django (as that’s what I named him) had the decency to look embarrassed by the whole thing.

But rattlesnakes? There is no way I would have one as a pet. The ones in the pet-shop appeared to be in a permanent state of annoyance where simply approaching the glass would send the tail up and that tell-tale rattle would slowly start to shake. The logistics of looking after an animal with the ability to, if not kill me with its venom then at the very least, seriously fuck-up my day is not something I want to entertain.

That constant threat of danger that exudes from rattlesnakes, however, does fascinate me. The purpose of the rattle is to warn you that the animal is there so that you keep away from it. You know to leave it alone and if you don’t bother it, hopefully, it won’t bother you. But what if the worst happens? What if someone gets bitten? What if you’re far from any help?

That’s the impetus that drives the latest Netflix release, Rattlesnake.

The film is written and directed by Zak Hilditch who also wrote and directed the Stephen King adaptation, 1922 and before that, the sci-fi drama, These Final Hours. It stars Carmen Ejogo (True Detective, Alien: Covenant) as Katrina, Emma Greenwell (Shameless, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Abbie, Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy, Luke Cage) as Billy and Apollonia Pratt as Clara.

During a car journey to see her mother, Katrina and her young daughter Clara take an impromptu detour after their satnav warns of impending delays up ahead due to an accident.

Unfortunately, whilst driving down this quiet little Texan road surrounded by scrub and desert, their car gets a puncture. Whilst Katrina attempts to change the wheel a bored Clara takes the opportunity to stretch her legs and explore the surrounding area but she inadvertently disturbs a rattlesnake and ends up getting bitten.

Stuck in the middle of nowhere, unable to leave without changing the wheel and with no phone signal (because there’s always no phone signal in movies) Katrina is understandably panicked and frightened until she spots a trailer parked up in the desert. A trailer that definitely wasn’t there before. Leaving the now feverish Kara with the lone occupant of the trailer, Katrina rushes out to finish changing the wheel.

Upon her return to the trailer, she finds Kara miraculously healed. But this sort of thing doesn’t come free and the price she has to pay in return is “a soul for a soul”. Katrina now has until sunset to take a human life to trade for that of her daughter’s, failure to do so will mean the rattlesnake venom will return to the child’s body where it will kill her.

For me, the movie was something of a mixed bag. My initial thought was that the task shouldn’t take too long to complete as Katrina is in the hospital with her daughter at the time of resolving to take another life. After all, a hospital should be filled with easy opportunities, life support machines to be switched off, elderly people to smother with a pillow or babies to dropkick out a window. Katrina does at least attempt one of these things (no, it’s not kicking a baby), but it doesn’t quite pan out how she envisioned it. She has reservations about taking another life but I don’t know if an actual parent would hesitate and dither about as much as Katrina does throughout the film.

However, every time I had a thought along the lines of say, “She’s in Texas, surely she can get a gun from somewhere?” The film did go address that too. Which was pretty good.

There was also a mixed amount of nice attention to detail juxtaposed by things that just didn’t quite work. For example, at the start of the film when Katrina takes the detour, you can clearly see the traffic starting to build up ahead of her and there’s even blue flashing lights from a police vehicle or something similar in the distance too. That was nice attention to detail. But then, later on, Katrina tumbles from her car and is nearly flattened by a truck. The problem is you can clearly tell from the next shot, that this was an impossibility from how she was parked in relation to the road and the fact that the truck is a good 8 feet away from her.

Its things like that which give me really mixed feelings on the movie. It’s not a bad film by any stretch as it’s well shot and well-acted, but Katrina’s hesitant inability to just get on with what she has to do just slows things down too much for me personally. I know the idea is to go through the character’s moral dilemma, but I just feel that any parent in the same situation would have dealt with the matter and smashed the nearest person in the head with a rock or something before the echoes of being told to take a soul had died in the air.

It was that bumbling irresolution on the part of Katrina that slowed the film down and made me think that it would have worked so much better (at least in terms of pacing and tension) if perhaps it involved more than one person stuck in the same situation, if only to change things up a bit and to get a look from another person’s perspective.

The film might not be for everyone and it does have a few issues but it’s not something to instantly dismiss either. I know that is a rather unsatisfactory ending for a review and can be taken as either a good or bad thing for the film, but that’s how it was for me. It wasn’t one thing or the other and just sat in that middle ground where it was too well made to be terrible, but wasn’t engaging enough to make it something to recommend.

In a way, the movie is just like snakes themselves. Some people like them and some people don’t. Not everyone will like this movie but I’m sure that some of you will, it just didn’t quite hit the mark for me.