Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Hydra
It lost its head
I really am a sucker for creature features. However, I should really know better than to trust The Sci-Fi channel’s made for TV efforts, because they are almost all of such low quality that they make the less than stellar Asylum efforts seem almost acceptable. In this case, the premise is solid gold- take the Most Dangerous Game, mix with the myth of the Lernean Hydra and let the carnage and shenanigans ensue. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and the eponymous giant asshole snake simply takes the film and crushes it in its useless coils of failure.
I find this one a bit annoying, to be honest, because it is such a good idea. For those that don’t know, the Lernean Hydra was the second of Heracles 12 labours. Basically, it’s a ginormous asshole snake with 7 heads and a severe attitude problem. This fucking animal is like an Anaconda on PCP, except it’s got a dirty trick up its sleeve. Every time our penitent demigod whacks its head off, another two sprout from the stump. This, you would think, should cause major problems for anyone wanting to exterminate the beast, but Heracles, being smarter than the average Greek hero, had help from a mate, who came up with the cunning idea of cauterising the stumps before another couple of heads could sprout, until Heracles used his magic sword to cut off the final, immortal, head. This is all symbolic and whatnot, as is often the way with Greek legend, being about hopelessness or something, but really, you have to think that this is a solid premise for a dopey creature film.
In the 21st Century, however, we don’t need stories to explain phenomena, or to give reason and expression to our emotions. We, being all highly evolved and secular and shit, instead believe that this is a rational scientific world. As such, there is no place for magic snakes and so forth, and our fables are more for the purposes of entertainment than enlightenment. This, I feel, is one of the big problems with using a monster, and an extremely famous one, from Greek mythology in a modern context, particularly one as clearly intentionally rooted in dull realism as this one. The giant asshole multi-headed beast is completely out of place here, being as this is, essentially, as already mentioned, a retelling of The Most Dangerous Game. The snake adds an unnecessary, yet strangely kind of essential, element to the story, as it’s little more than a gimmick to inject interest into a flaccid and uninteresting, not to mentioned hackneyed, narrative.
OK, to cut to the chase, this is the story: asshole billionaire Camden, Alex McArthur, has hired bitter ex-Armed Forces douchebag Captain Sweet (Michael Shamus Wiles) to pick 6 people who have committed crimes of some description to be hunted down and killed by a group of bored millionaire assholes looking for the ultimate thrill. What he doesn’t know is that Sweet has picked an ex-Special Forces character called Nolan (George Stults) for complicated and uninteresting vengeance motives to spice the mix. After Sweet dumps them all on an island in the Mediterranean that’s on the verge of a volcanic eruption (sadly never realised), Nolan organises our ragtag group of convicts to fight back. In the meantime, our giant asshole snake is romping around the island chomping the hunters and showing off his ability to grow multiple heads. Eventually, our heroes realise that they have to kill the Hydra, and Gwen (Dawn Olivieri) tells a version of the myth that I’ve never heard of. The island helpfully supplies Heracles’ Magic Sword (I really wish I was joking about this) to kill the snake, and I ponder whether or not the meaning of life really is 42, because that’s more interesting than the film.
The acting here is absolutely atrocious. Stults is apparently not a human being, rather he’s a moving root vegetable who has spent excess amount of time in the gym. He’s got no presence, and delivers every line in the same atonal overly macho drawl that it’s hard to judge how important the line is. This is a man who would say “Flash, I love you but we only have 14 hours left to save the world” and make it sound exactly as if he were ordering a pizza. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most balsa-like actors that I’ve seen in a long time. To compound matters, he has absolutely no chemistry with Olivieri, and this is a shame because they’re meant to be our heroes. Olivieri, furthermore, is totally unconvincing, and I have no belief at all that she killed her husband. McArthur and Wiles aren’t really trying, and the former in particular looks totally disinterested. Still, though, you don’t watch a film like this for the acting.
I, actually, watch a film like this for the creature based carnage. In the case of Hydra, the budget is clearly less than Megan Fox spends on spermicide per month and as such the snake is an intensely dodgy piece of CGI. Nevertheless, they gamely plonk it front and centre at every available opportunity and the beast does go to work on our disposable victims. It does, I have to say, do this with no little flair and the individual kills are all reasonably amusing in their own right. A high point of the film is when the creature (it now has 5 heads) grabs the guy with its central head, lifts him up, and then the other 4 heads each grab a limb and rip the fucker asunder. I have to give credit here, it’s nice to see one of these stupid films where every kill takes place bang on camera, because at the end of the day this is a creature feature and the audience demands blood.
Still, though, this is an astoundingly bad film. The acting is, as mentioned, shite, and the effects are dismal. However, the real problem is the script. The magic sword of Hercules is an appalling idea, and retrieving it from a mini-volcano without it being hot is an even worse one. That the sword then makes the head explode in a flash of smoke is a woeful idea. What I don’t understand is that the myth itself gives very, very clear instructions as to how you kill the monster: chop the head off, then cauterise the stump with a flaming brand. So why invent some bollocks about a magic sword when the solution is there already? Why bother dicking with a story that is thousands of years old and already has withstood the test of time? Furthermore, if you’re going to be fucking silly, one of the minor points of the story is that Hera sent a giant crab in to the battle to deal with Heracles, so were I to make a film based on the Hydra then I would abso-fucking-lutely have included an oversized crustacean. The multi-headed snake is a dumb as hell, so why not push the stupidity up to 11 and go all out bugnuts?
Overall, I don’t recommend this. It’s poop frankly and another dismal effort in Sciffy’s archive of dismal efforts. It’s frustrating, actually, because there is the germ of a good film here, and both the premise and idea underpinning the film are essentially solid. Had the crap with the magic sword been excised, and had they had the balls to go all out bugnuts, then I could have been talked into recommending this. However, they didn’t, and as they semi-neutered it with stupidity I find it hard to give this anything other than a negative rating.
This is a bit of a shame, actually, and I would like someone to take another stab at this monster, because there is potential here for some high-end dumbhouse. Just not with Syfy at the wheel.
Until next time,