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Monday, March 12

Jaws of Satan (1981)

This weekend I checked out a movie that’s been in my Netflix cue for some time now, JAWS OF SATAN. One thing is for sure – it is appropriately named, as it lifts its story structure directly from the movie JAWS.

Jaws of Satan tells the story of a small town that is being overrun with poisonous snakes. People are being attacked and killed, but the town leaders want to keep it quiet because they’re opening a new race track, and word of a rash of deaths would hurt business. One by one the bodies start to mount, so a snake expert is brought in to help deal with the crisis.

But there is one major difference with this film; these snakes have a purpose. They are being controlled by none other than Satan himself. In a convoluted plotline we learn that the local priest, Father Tom Farrow (played by veteran actor Fritz Weaver) is the descendant of a line of priests whose ancestor persecuted the druids and ran them out of business. In the process a curse was placed upon his family bloodline, and every three years a family member is attacked by the dark forces of hell. There have been mysterious disappearances and deaths throughout the years, and now Satan has returned again to claim vengeance on the Farrow family. He especially wants Father Tom, because "Priests burn brighter in hell."

So Satan’s big plot is apparently to send snakes to bite people in this small town. Pretty lame for the lord of the underworld, but hey, who am I to question? There are more Jaws rip-off scenes, such as the police fearing the town folk will form hunting parties to go after the snakes. Satan appears throughout the film as an enlarged cobra, mostly lurking in the shadows. The story leads to a showdown between Satan and the priest in a nearby cave, with an ending that is a bit anti-climatic.

Jaws of Satan can’t decide if it wants to be Jaws or The Exorcist, and the combination of nature run amok and supernatural themes don’t work together. If they had picked one or the other it would have been a much better movie.  The film is a bit slow paced but has enough action throughout to keep things interesting. It has decent production value and acting, especially veteran actors Fritz Weaver and Norman Lloyd, but the plot is a jumbled mess. Christina Applegate appears in this movie as a child, which is pretty neat to see. I’m betting she doesn’t talk about this movie too often, kind of like Jennifer Anniston and Leprechaun.

In closing this film is worth watching for the Christina Applegate appearance and the acting of Fritz Weaver. Fans of b-movies will get a kick out of the hokiness of the plot and some of the unintentionally funny moments, such as the first snake attack early on in the film where you can clearly see a pane of glass between the actor and the snake, and can even hear the snake thud onto the glass as it strikes - It’s even more obvious than the glass between Harrison Ford and the snake in Raiders.  This would make a great bad-movie party selection.

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