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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.

2014 UPDATE: This scene has been re-edited and flows better. Some of the over excess of comedic scenes have been whittled down to being sharper and more story centric. This is a good thing. Plus, Lisa Burdette is hilarious.

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.

2014 UPDATE: We get pretty much the same beginning, but we the audience do lose a great scene between Joel Denning and George Stover – Baltimore acting legend – where they fight using live cats. 

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.

2014 UPDATE: Okay, here is were I have to really change my tune. I had heard from Seth Hurwitz that the movie had been trimmed by about 10 minutes. That is a LOT of time in movie time folks. So the main characters still remain intact, but the secondary characters got trimmed and some of the subplots go by the wayside… and that’s a good thing. The film trimmed the excess in the love development plots. It also took some excess fat away from comedic parts that played too long on the screen. What we are left with is a very, very tight and fun creature feature romp.

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.

2014 UPDATE: I can give this movie a solid 8.5/10 rating now. It is worth it and a lot of fun. In the near future, I am a guest host on THE AFTER MOVIE DINER Podcast and Jon Cross and I talk about this movie in detail – plus Jon interviews Frank Lama and Seth Hurwitz. Stay tuned for a link to that podcast.

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

2014 UPDATE: The movie runs 90 minutes and comes with trailers and a stills gallery. The quality of the picture and sound is 100% better as well. If  this ever goes to another pressing, I would suggest that they include an audio commentary, and perhaps a cover that features the fish looking more evil and attacking Burdette, Lama and Hansen (ala a Sci Fi Channel looking DVD cover). The current cover doesn’t “grab” the attention enough that it should, as this is a fun indie movie not to be missed.

For more information and to buy this film, visit www.swarmofthesnakehead.com:

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