Serpent or Don’t Move- Halt Still in German for some unknown reason in Germany is an 85 minute no budget film set in South Africa about a young couple who decide to go ‘camping’ for the weekend instead of going to a hotel like normal, civilized, decent people do.
They pitch their tent by a waterfall, and join me in drifting off to sleep after wondering exactly when the plot was going to show up.
And show up it did as this young couple soon find themselves sharing the tent with a Dendroaspis polylepis or Black Mamba. Which, when not taking on the Avengers is an extremely venomous snake of the family Elapidae, and native to parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
How venomous you ask?
Well, it’s been reported that before antivenom was widely available, the mortality rate from a bite was a mere 100%! The bite of a black mamba can potentially cause collapse in humans within 45 minutes, or less. And without effective antivenom therapy, death typically occurs in 7–15 hours. Oh, and it can also move faster than most people can run, slithering speed up to 12 mph [19 kph].
And there’s your film.
Two people, in a tent with a lethal snake, trying to work out how to get the snake out without being bitten. Which means no big movements,no loud noises, trying to get the damn thing out before the rising heat of the day angers and upsets it, causing it to bite you and… oh yeah, not having a ton of secrets which might cause the person your sharing this extremely enclosed space with to reconsider the whole ‘don’t let the snake bite anyone policy’ that they just decided upon.
There are no jump scares, no orchestral stings, just the increasing tension of the situation. It’s a realistic horror which could happen to anyone who decides that ‘going camping’ is a good idea.
But, this is more a psychological film than Snakes in a Tent. Of two people locked in a small space, seemingly facing certain death trying to confess all their secrets whilst distracting certain death with a smart phone. It’s more a slow burn as the temperature rises and tempers fray with safety mere centimeters away but so far out of reach it might as well be on the dark side of the moon.
And the craziest thing? The budget for this film was so low that they couldn’t afford CGI. (Always a plus in my book anyway) So instead they just decided to use an actual Black Mamba whose mouth was carefully secured shut. Because why not?
Sadly though, the film does go silly in the last ten minutes and manages to deflate quite a lot of the tension that had been coiling around my chest like an ever squeezing boa constrictor. Up until then, it really had been a masterclass in showing how sharing a small pace with a so-called loved one can be the most terrifying and isolating thing in the world. As well as the costs that secrets can have.
Naturally, a short film means that the characters don’t get much time to develop, the developments that they do have are fairly generic and I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of the two leads as a couple, but beyond that it’s a very tense little film that if it could have stopped it’s third act going so silly, might be a classic horror film in the making. As is though?
My Score- See It