29th Oct2018

VOD Vault: ‘Serpent’ & ‘The Super’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Another week, another installment of VOD Vault – taking a look at some on-demand releases that have hit various VOD platforms recently. It’s been more than a few months since our last installment, so we’re diving into two brand-new films to have hit VOD services recently: Serpent, and The Super – both available on iTunes, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Sony, Rakuten, and the Sky Store courtesy of The Movie Partnership.

Serpent

serpent-screen

Stars: Tom Ainsley, Sarah Dumont, Nicole Johnson | Written and Directed by Amanda Evans

Hoping to save their crumbling marriage, Gwynneth joins her husband, Adam, as he embarks on a wildlife research expedition. The romantic bliss of the wilderness suddenly turns into a fatal moment of reckoning, as the couple awaken to find a deadly snake trapped in their tent. With certain death looming, Gwynneth and Adam spiral into a dark and dangerous game of survival, twisted by heated confessions of temptation and betrayal.

Serpent is a film of two halves: the opening feels very much like an old-school Italian horror production, where most of the time is spent admiring the scenery in a “travelogue” fashion not really telling any story, instead padding out the films running time. Eventually the film gets down to the nitty-gritty as our 2 protagonists are trapped in a tent with a Black Mamba! This portion of the film is a tour-de-force in performance, with both actors holding the audiences attention as the snake writhes around them – sometimes unseen but ever-present thanks to the acting of the two leads.

Writer/director Amanda Evans also throws in some interesting imagery that gives extra meaning to the title of the film: the serpent here also being temptation, in the very biblical sense of the word. With the emotional betrayal of Gwynneth (who’s had an affair) being a further poison to her marriage – along with that poison in the snake of course! But thats not the only metaphor at play here – the story also parallels the tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Making this more akin to a emotional drama rather than the creature-feature the title, and the appearance of a snake, would suggest.

The Super

the-super-screen

Stars: Val Kilmer, Patrick John Flueger, Louisa Krause | Written by John J. McLaughlin | Directed by Stephan Rick

From producer Dick Wolf (Law & Order) comes the terrifying new thriller The Super. Former cop Phil Lodge takes a new job as a superintendent in an exclusive Manhattan high-rise apartment building, but when the tenants begin to disappear with alarming frequency, he fears a sadistic murderer may be roaming the corridors. Phil’s prime suspect is the building’s unsettling maintenance man, Walter (Val Kilmer), who lurks among the cavernous bowels of the apartment block. Although Walter readily provides the former cop with disturbing advice, Phil must decide whether he is simply trying to throw him off the scent. As it becomes clear that every resident has something to hide, is Phil right to trust a stranger with a key to his front door?

Imagine if M. Knight Shyamalan made a “hider in the house” movie and you’d essentially get The Super. Playing on the familiarity of the concept of a stalker hunting tenants of a high-rise, The Super is packed with red-herrings, and a whopping twist that turns this story on its head. It’s a remarkable feat of storytelling that at no time does the audience know what’s truly going on here in the slightest! That’s down to the entire cast and crew of the movie: in particular Taylor Richardson as Violet, the only one who knows what is really going on, yet until the reveal you don’t realise she does – her performance comes across as a troubled teen, whose looking out for her father whilst being somewhat emotionally distant. Like teens often are. Yet when the twist comes and the truth is told, her performance is all the more impressive; you can see she was actually projecting a sense of fear and sadness throughout the film, only the audience will be too focused on the “killer” aspect of this tale to realise.

It’s not often a film surprises audiences in this way, and when the do they often make careers (cough, M. Knight Shyamalan, cough) so its a shame that The Super is being dumped to VOD. Hopefully it will reach the audience it so richly deserves.

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