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Swarm of the Snakehead (2006) by Ten Pound Films
“Part fish. Part snake. Pure evil. . .”

Starring: Gunnar Hansen, Frank A. Lama, Lisa Burdette, Joel Denning, Sharon Graves, Gerry Paradiso, Jamie Linck O’Brien, Timothy Stultz, Kimberly Mallory, Johnny Alonso, Erica Highberg, Rigg Kennedy

With: Leanna Chamish, Barry A. Hurwitz, Elizabeth Denning, Steve Carson, Margaret Denning, George Stover, Brandon Mason

Directors: Frank A. Lama/Joel Denning
Writer: Seth Hurwitz (writer)
Music: Tom Alonso
Soundtrack includes music by: Kip Winger, Ravyns, Boot Camp, and Last December
Genre: Comedy/Horror

The story: On her way to a benefit function, shady Barrow Springs Mayor Appleyard (Burdette) hits and almost kills a man as he runs across the path of her speeding car. Little does she know that as she stops to see if the man is alright, she has gained a passenger – carnivorous, genetically-engineered snakehead fish – a species that can breathe air and walk on land, as well as swim in the water.

Meanwhile, with his three sullen daughters in tow, a hapless father named Emerson (Denning) returns to his hometown of Barrow Springs. Entering his childhood home, he flashes back to the days of living there with his scientist father (Kennedy). Emerson goes into town to get dinner, only to discover that his high school sweetheart Abigail (Graves) is still there and runs the town café. Sparks re-ignite.

At the town hall, washed-up celebrity fisherman Darrel Delhey (Lama) is giving his introductory speech at the Barrow Springs annual fish off, when fishing legend Gunnar (Hansen) shows up. He warns the townsfolk that something is amiss – Something is out there that is going to destroy Barrow Springs. All these elements and events come together that night as the snakeheads attack the little town; blood-soaked murder and mayhem reigns supreme, and Barrow Springs will never be the same.

Frank Lama freaked out

What works for this movie? Plain and simple, it’s Frank A. Lama’s turn as cheeseball/celebrity/coward Darrel Delhey. Take equal parts Bruce Campbell and Jim Carrey and sprinkle in Lama’s perfect sense of comic timing and you have a hell of a performance. Lama proves that he is a versatile actor and can do comedy just as well as dramatic roles (for a look at the dramatic side of Frank A. Lama’s work, be sure to check out FEAR OF CLOWNS 2).

Lisa Burdette Gunnar Hansen

Also, lead actress Lisa Burdette (LIBERTY HEIGHTS) is as talented as she is beautiful, and holds her own well playing the smarmy, sexy Mayor Appleyard of Barrow Springs with comedic flair. Guest cameo appearances include Johnny Alonso (ONE TREE HILL), George Stover (John Water’s DESPERATE LIVING), and scream queen Leanna Chamish (DEAD HUNT).

Johnny Alonso George Stover Leanna Chamish

I know, you want to know about legendary cult actor Gunnar “Leatherface” Hansen. While, he only has one lengthly scene in the movie, he is great in it. Playing a “Quint” like character (think JAWS) his obvious disgust with Delhey is priceless.

visual fx

The effects are top notch for the budget. The snakeheads are realized with both puppets and CGI. They tend to be a little on the cheesy side, but remember that this is not a movie that takes itself seriously. Towards the end, an all-out visual effects smorgasbord takes please and is a pretty cool. The acting is competent; no one embarrasses themselves in front of the camera. The script and story lend itself to some funny lines and site gags. The locations are lush and numerous, and the soundtrack is excellent and matches what is going on the screen perfectly.

What doesn’t work in this movie: If there is a problem with the film, it is that it suffers from the “1941″ dilemma; there are too many characters and subplots to keep track of. It is no joke when I say there are at least 20 to 30 supporting characters in the movie (the investigative reporter, the radio DJs, the fishermen, the sheriff and deputy, the band, etc) and several subplots (budding romance between Emerson’s oldest daughter and mayor’s son, a government cover up, the mayor’s shady deals, Emerson and Abigail’s romance, Emerson’s guilty past, etc) that it can get spread out and confusing. Fewer supporting characters and tightening up the script would have done wonders.

Final Word: Despite some flaws, SWARM OF THE SNAKEHEAD is a lot of fun with some laugh-out-loud moments. This is a very well-done indie film shot in Maryland. Call some friends over and have a beer and pizza night with this sure-to-be-a-cult classic. It’s also a lot of fun for the kids (though some of the gore sequences might scare the younger tykes). Guaranteed to put a grin on your face.

Specs: Widescreen, color, 98 minutes. The edition I received has the trailer and the fake man rod commercial on it as extras.

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