Written by: John White on January 24th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1974
Director: Gui Zhi Hong
Cast: Kam Kwok-Leung, Maggie Lee Lam Lam, Chan Chun
DVD released: 6th March 2003
Approximate running time: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35.1 Widescreen (Letterboxed)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono 1.0
DVD Release: Celestial
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC
Retail Price: HK$ 85
Synopsis: Chi Hon grew up listening to his sadomasochistic parents in the throes of their passion and has grown into a very damaged young man with his only friends being snakes he has saved from the shop next door. Inspired by his courting of local market girl, Xiujuan, Chi Hon gets a job and starts to get his life in order. However he loses the job after being mugged by a prostitute and her pimp and goes to his date with Xiujuan not knowing her father has died and that she has been thrown out of her lodgings into likely prostitution. When Xiujuan doesn’t show Chi Hon goes to the prostitute again after obsessing on some S&M porn and is again attacked. During the attack, his pet snake attacks his assailants and the tables are turned. Chi Hon kidnaps the prostitute and subjects her to the fantasies he sees in his pornography and begins a spree of sick revenge with his snakes.
If Ken Loach ever wanted to make a down at heel picture about the underclass in Hong Kong he couldn’t make it any grittier than the opening of this film. Chi Hon has a hell on earth of a life, he is consistently humiliated and bullied, and circumstances conspire against any hope of happiness. What follows this set of letdowns is as twisted a revenge as you can imagine. Chi Hon loses any compassion for other human beings and uses his pet snakes to fulfil his sexual desires and kill anyone in his path.
Similarly Xiujuan falls into a life of prostitution through no fault other than being pretty and poor and when Chi Hon kills her it is hard not to agree with his twisted view that he is putting her out of her misery. The snakes and lizards in this film are revolting and their use is something which I can’t imagine PETA being very keen on. Some of the sexual kicks which Chi Hon goes for are very unsettling and to be honest a bit much for this viewer.
Killer Snakes is extraordinarily gruelling, dark and unforgiving. The unhappiness portrayed here is beyond any kind of redemption and the film offers no real comment upon the vile acts of Chi Hon. If you have a strong stomach and enjoy the visceral scares here then this may be for you, but it’s not for me.
Celestial present Killer Snakes in 4:3 letterboxed at 2.35:1. The print is generally good but the night time sequences show up excessive amounts of grain which makes them hard to follow. The print is also not sharp enough in places. The sound adds to the jarring nature of the visuals and is fine in it’s original mono. The English subs are good if occasionally literal.
The DVD comes with background around the film – apparently Shaw saw it as doing for Snakes what Willard did for rats. There are trailers for other Celestial releases also.
This is a far from perfect release largely due to poor elements. The film is as complete a release that is available on DVD but Celestial have created new end titles on this release. I feel this film goes a bit too far and wouldn’t want to own it for it’s misogyny but this is probably the best release of it on DVD.