Tepid and perfunctory, IN THE EYE OF THE SNAKE is a defanged thriller that wastes some capable performers and attractive locations. Marc (Jason Cairns) has been obsessed with snakes ever since he was a young boy growing up in Africa; a decade or so later, he works in the reptile department of a museum in Geneva, where he lives with his mother, Claire...read more
Tepid and perfunctory, IN THE EYE OF THE SNAKE is a defanged thriller that wastes some capable performers and attractive locations.
Marc (Jason Cairns) has been obsessed with snakes ever since he was a young boy growing up in Africa; a decade or so later, he works in the reptile department of a museum in Geneva, where he lives with his mother, Claire (Lois Chiles). At a party, he encounters newly arrived Professor Baldwin
(Malcolm McDowell), a herpetologist he'd once met in Africa, and Baldwin's pretty young assistant Malika (Sydney Penny). Despite being warned that the two have more than a professional relationship, and that Baldwin has some sort of strange hold over Malika, Marc pursues a friendship with her. The
jealous Baldwin threatens to report Marc's home collection of illegally imported snakes to the authorities unless Marc turns over a rare boa to him, but at the same time seems to be encouraging Malika to lead Marc on.
Malika ultimately falls for Marc, and the couple wind up sleeping together. But Malika subsequently disappears from her aunt's house, where she's been living, and Marc is put out to discover that Baldwin is romancing Claire. Arriving at Baldwin's mansion, Marc finds Malika and convinces her to
leave with him; Baldwin follows them to Marc's apartment and confronts the couple. In the ensuing struggle, Baldwin is crippled and Marc bitten by one of his own poisonous snakes, but he survives to take Malika on a trip back to Africa.
Opening with a flashback to Marc's childhood that takes entirely too long (nearly 20 minutes) to deliver the necessary backstory, IN THE EYE OF THE SNAKE remains generally lethargic throughout. The script, by Efrem Camerin and producer Jacques Sandoz, is strictly by-the-numbers, which is a
problem, since director Max Reid seems content to let the story create the suspense, never allowing anything as ambitious as style to creep into the predictable narrative. In a typical scene, a python escapes from Marc's apartment, crawls into a neighbor's room, slithers up behind her and ...
crawls away again. Given the location shooting in both Switzerland and Africa, the visuals are surprisingly drab, and the sound work is often muffled and indistinct. At least the various snake species look authentic.
The filmmakers also seem confused as to what they want their characters to be. At times, Marc's obsession with snakes seems to border on the seriously disturbed, but mostly he's just a nice guy who's a little socially stunted. A similar confusion muddies the relationship between Baldwin and
Malika: the "hold" he supposedly has over her is never explained, and he vacillates from encouraging her to spend time with Marc to doing everything he can to keep them apart. McDowell and the attractive Penny do what they can with their underwritten characters, but Cairns's performance is rather
Produced in 1990, IN THE EYE OF THE SNAKE lurked in the limbo where mediocre international productions dwell for four years before creeping out on video. Typical of AIP releases, the box art features a sultry naked woman who appears nowhere in the film itself. (Violence, sexual situations,profanity.)
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