Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sand Serpents (2009)

More monstrosities unleashed from man's ambitions

A group of soldiers in a remote area of Afghanistan are checking the viability of a mine when they get ambushed and captured by the Taliban who want to either ransom or execute them. The soldiers are blindfolded inside when suddenly screams and a roar are heard outside and their captors vanish without a trace. They scramble up supplies and head back to their pick up spot to wait it out, when their rescue helicopter gets taken out by a large worm-like monstrosity from beneath the sand. They team up with a friendly local and his daughter to figure out a way to either get to the nearest village or make a call for help, all the while dodging the Taliban, not to mention avoiding getting eaten alive by the huge "Sand Serpents" that got awakened from man tampering below to excavate resources.

This is a basic movie that doesn't feel like anything new to go out of one's way to check out. There aren't enough stand out moments to make this exceptional. If seen in passing as a time killer on TV, you can still depend on it as it moves along painlessly with a recognizable formula with the usual opposing human sides vs something monstrous in the middle. The humorless experience isn't exactly enlightening or impactful, nor is it incredibly charging to make up for that. Why the sand worms all of sudden arrived is mentioned but how they've survived this long is a puzzle better left unsolved since it will show another of its limitations. They show up when they hear vibrations like in "Tremors" and then pop out of the sand to consume someone whole. The first few times it's a sight to behold due to their looming size and ferocity but after a while you can count on them to do the same routine. Not to mention the monsters seem to come and go at their leisure: some points right on top, then at others giving a breather, which so happens to coincide with a dialogue scene. Despite not having eyes, they also know who is a leading star and who isn't the way they'll go right for someone insignificant but then give pause just after heatedly chasing a main character by conveniently leaving themselves wide open for a counter attack. The film reveals too many areas of its blue prints only to end up losing its sense of awe and wonderment.

Instead of the music making this more energetic, it seems somewhat low in volume and on top of that comes with some generic library tunes. The CGI effects are passable for a made for TV Syfy feature in quicker and longer shots with some smooth motion and added detail to their structure, even if they still can't shake that video game-like look. To its credit "Sand Serpents" had a steady pacing that doesn't stall or look back. It's an easy no brainer of a film that's somewhat dialogue heavy by doing a share of the thinking between action scenes about what to do next. There are far too many epileptic-like shaky camera shots that make it disorienting. A share of the shoot outs are of the stand still and fire kind, than moving about to make themselves less easy of targets. The acting feels like a means to an end. It's fair if not exceptional or commanding. The most memorable character, Private Andrews, happens to be the most annoying one with a negative opinion on every little movement and subject. There are moments that make them out to be soldiers whether it be dreaming about back home, complaining about headquarters or actually protecting and serving, though they still carry that glimmer of being comfortable actors on a set.

There's a small amount of subtext with trust and distrust of different sides: Afghans trusting Americans in their country, Americans trusting that some of the Afghans aren't terrorists. But for the meantime, both sides have something else on their hands that's larger than human turf wars. Fortunately the film mainly keeps it on an action movie level than a neck deep political one.

Rating: 4/10

Director: Jeff Renfroe (One Point O, Civic Duty)
Link: IMDB

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