When an archaeologist uncovers a strange skull in a foreign land, the residents of a nearby town begin to disappear, leading to further inexplicable occurrences.
***Quirky, amusing, sometimes surreal horror about a snake cult in England*** Directed & written by Ken Russell and loosely based on Bram Stoker’s novel, “The Lair of the White Worm” (1988) chronicles events in England when a young archeologist (Peter Capaldi) uncovers a skull of some unknown beast near a bed & breakfast run by two sisters (Sammi Davis & Catherine Oxenberg). These three and Eve’s beau (Hugh Grant) soon stumble upon an ancient snake cult led by the eccentric Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe), who dwells at a lavish estate nearby. The movie is a creative and entertaining creature feature reminiscent in tone & theme of “Squirm” (1976), but with Russell’s well-known offbeat excesses. The “creatures” are vampire-like snake people plus a gigantic serpent at the close, both of which recall the snake worshipers & giant serpents from “Conan the Barbarian” (1982). There are some iconic cinematic images, like Donohoe as the vampiric snake lady, not to mention a few well done horror scenes, like a snake woman who’s cut in half, but still wiggles with furious intent. The snake cult is diabolical in an anti-Christ way and I can see why some viewers might find the movie shocking and offensive, like the weird nun-raping flashback. Yet everything's so exaggerated and sometimes cheesy with a bit o' humor thrown in that the film can't be taken very seriously, which negates it from being shocking or disturbing. Fun in a horrific way? Yes. Disturbing? No. Also, keep in mind that horror villains/monsters are SUPPOSED to drip with ee-vil and be shocking. The question is, do they win or do the noble protagonists win? On the female front, the chief snake lady thinks she’s hotter than she really is as Donohoe amusingly hams it up. Meanwhile Catherine Oxenberg as Eve is a semi-highlight, particularly in the last act. The film runs 1 hour, 33 minutes and was shot entirely in England (Hertfordshire; Manifold Valley, Staffordshire; Peak District National Park; and Derbyshire). Thor's Cave in Manifold Valley is magnificent. GRADE: B-