The Rise and Fall of a Giant Pyrokinetic Demon Snake
Wealthy huntsman Jason Kincaid (Oliver Reed) once had an encounter with an exotic demon snake creature. He survived the ordeal. As if the beast frequently haunting his feverish nightmares isn’t enough of an everlasting suffering, the actual demon serpent is now on its way to Kincaid’s hometown. Soon, not only a university endorsed psychology professor but also a snake-worshipping cult and celebrated TV-actress Kerrie Keane will take an interest in the oversized demonic critter. What on earth is this movie about?
Director William Fruet has an interesting track record in horror/exploitation movies. From the gripping and slightly humorous ‘home invasion’ flick ‘The House By The Lake’ aka ‘Death Weekend’ (1976) to his entertaining spin on ‘Alien-set-in-a-hospital’ called ‘Insect’ aka ‘Blue Monkey’ (1987), starring the mighty Steve Railsback. But somehow Fruet firmly misfired with ‘Spasms’, resulting in a bonkers-enough-to-entertain heap of illogical nonsense about a giant killer demon snake with a telepathic link to… Oliver Reed. Yes, the once mighty actor Oliver Reed has a supernatural/psychological connection with a demon serpent and of course, being the great actor that he is (or once was), he takes this problem very seriously. So seriously that, in terms of acting, you get to see him pull some of the silliest faces in his entire career as an actor. To make things worse, Reed just goes about mumbling most of his lines in a practically inaudible fashion. And for some reason Fruet deemed all this a suitable performance.
So we have an opening sequence set on some savage island where the grotesquely painted natives summon the demon snake in a primitive ritual. Back in America, we have Jason Kincaid (Oliver Reed) telepathically linked to the snake because he once got into a fight with it (and survived) during one of his hunting trips. Knowing that the snake has been captured and is being brought over by ship, Kincaid enlists the help of psychology professor Dr. Tom Brasilian, played by the equally mighty Peter Fonda, who seems to have very little of an idea as to why he’s running around in this movie. Dr. Brasilian, naturally, is interested in the whole story as it might give him the chance to study the giant snake and its psychic connection to Kincaid.
So the snake is delivered to the university. But Dr. Brasilian soon finds himself with a real mess on his hands: before even having the chance to experiment on the snake, the serpent is clumsily set free by members of a snake-worshipping cult, eager to have the scaled slithering beastie in their possession so they can, uhm, well, worship it, I guess. Amazingly, this is were the whole cultus-plotline – arguably one of the more interesting aspects of the story – ends, giving us absolutely no insights to the cult’s motives or schemes. The whole cult-thing in the story merely serves as a means in the plot to have the snake escape and wreak havoc. Fair enough, since as a result we get to see the snake – from a suspenseful subjective blue haze point of view – infiltrate a campus house to spectacularly kill a female student and give a blonde beauty (who’s generously showing off her body in a very welcome shower scene) the scare of her life.
Meanwhile the police, as to be expected, is of no use capturing the beast and it will come to a showdown between Oliver Reed and the demon serpent in the gardan of his huge mansion. All this in a fire-drenched finale that will give us the ultimate reason for Peter Fonda to be in this epic feature: to save the day and the girl at the end of the movie. Oh yes, wait a minute, I said the girl, right? Almost forgot to mention Kerri Keane, who plays Kincaid’s niece Suzanne Cavadon (raised by Kincaid since her parents died, or something). The only reason for her to be in the movie, is to have her featured in some scenes where she can walk around alongside Peter Fonda (or Oliver Reed, for that matter). While Ms. Keane puts down a remarkable performance in doing so, you’re ultimately left wondering “Why is she in this movie again?”. And that pretty much goes for the whole cast, if you hadn’t caught on to that yet.
But in all honesty, ‘Spasms’ is a film well worth watching. Especially if you take your bad movies seriously (again, like the whole cast in this film does). For one thing, the plot is such an incoherent mess that the film never becomes boring. It has Oliver Reed and Peter Fonda as the dubious star power. It has a shower scene with gratuitous female nudity. And it features a never-before-seen-on-screen kind of creature: the giant (plastic) demon snake with a variety of supernatural abilities, displayed in a wondrous array of special effects. Besides its telekinetic capacities, our serpent can also cause lawn to magically combust and the best thing of all are the results when you get bitten: your skin will start to bubble, veins will pop, you’ll start to bloat and bleed and – this last thing we can only presume, because it’s never shown on screen – eventually explode. We might very well have the only giant snake on record here with genuine Scanner-venom in its biology. Makes me wonder why David Cronenberg never filed for a lawsuit. He must have missed out on this wonderful film. How could he? It was even shot in Toronto, Canada. Oh well, nevermind.
Ready for ‘Spasms’? Watch it on YouTube, if you dare.
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