Monday, March 5, 2018
BEHEMOTH (2011), SAND SERPENTS (2009)
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *cosmological*
Here are two more of the Syfy-oriented "giant beastie" films, which I surveyed largely to see if they fell into the combative mode.
BEHEMOTH starts out fairly well for this type of film.A small American town, existing for years in the shadow of a mountain, experiences seismic quakes. The only one who really knows what's going on is William, a crazy-seeming old man. William claims that every few million years, a creature arises to wipe out humankind for its sins, and that this time, the creature dwells beneath the mountain.
Sure enough, he's right.
The film is fairly suspenseful for the first hour, suggesting the enormity of the buried monster rather than showing it outright. Of course, in the latter half the viewer finally gets to see the beast, and it's just another big tentacled grotesque. The script gets a couple of points for referencing the Babylonian epic of monster-slayer Marduk and his dragon-enemy Tiamat, but even then, the myth is only brought up as a guide to the hero on how to execute the modern-day behemoth.
The "Sand Serpents" are even less mythic in dimension than the Behemoth: as the above photo shows, they're just big worms with mouths like lampreys. Borrowing a trope from the original GODZILLA, the worms have apparently existed for eons far beneath the surface of the earth-- but not so far that a simple explosion in Afghanistan can't wake them up. The worms, invulnerable to gunfire though not to grenades, burrow through the earth and gobble up both Taliban terrorists and American soldiers with impunity. The script doesn't suggest how they've survived all this time if they had nothing to feed on beneath the earth, though I suppose the old "suspended animation" schtick is still good for another run. Still, it's hard to imagine such colossal creatures being able to sustain themselves by feeding on such puny fare. Each one of them looks like it needs nothing short of a whale for a good meal.
The American grunts are given at least moderately competent characterization, and Jeff Renfroe's direction keeps up the tension even in the non-monster scenes. There's a moral lesson on the folly of deeming all Muslims to be terrorists, but it's not overdone for this sort of action-melodrama.