Friday, January 6, 2017

JAWS OF SATAN (1981)



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
MYTHICITY: *poor*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *metaphysical*


As others have observed, the major plot-threads of this flick-- originally called KING COBRA-- come from the similarly named shark-movie and another 1970s hit, THE EXORCIST. It's directed by Bob Claver, whose directorial credits are mostly for episodic TV, and it's filmed pretty much like any TV-movie. In addition, its biggest name-actors, Fritz Weaver and Gretchen Corbett, are actors best known for their TV-work, and the only other "name" in the film, Christina Applegate, had not yet become Al Bundy's offspring.

It's usually a pretty dull film, particularly when the film rips off JAWS (various killer snakes, commanded by a mysterious cobra, besiege a country town, and the mayor doesn't want to warn people for the usual reasons). The EXORCIST plot is a little better thanks to Fritz Weaver's conviction in playing Catholic priest Father Tom Farrow, who seems to have lost his faith. Then, when he attends a party, a modern witch reads his tea-leaves (or was it his coffee-grounds?) and reveals that Satan himself is coming to call.

Farrow certainly doesn't believe he's worthy of s visit from the Dark Lord himself, but in time, he finds out that he shares a special heritage. Back in the days when St. Patrick allegedly cast all serpents out of Ireland, one of Patrick's followers-- not the saint himself-- attracted the ire of the local druids. They cursed him and all his progeny to be slain by snakes, which were to be commanded by Satan himself in the form of a cobra-- or something like that.

Though it's a ridiculous premise, I have to give the filmmakers props for the audacity of invoking ancient Irish curses to explain a bunch of hostile snakes. In the end, Farrow gets his Catholic moxie together, confronts the King Cobra with his cross, and exorcises it in a flash of flame. It's a poverty-row version of the EXORCIST exorcism, but I found that it does imply a greater conflict of supernatural forces, so that this cheapjack horror-film does become a combative drama. It helps that Farrow also isn't just any old priest, but someone with a special destiny and ancestors to avenge.



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