Killtoberfest 1 – #38: The Reptile

In All, Movies by Kyu

Killtoberfest #39 was The Reptile. Oh, what a sad time that was.

Normally I would never choose a picture of the creature make-up reveal. But The Reptile is the only Hammer horror to ever disappoint me completely. It’s just boring: an English countryside murder mystery with no detective and even fewer reasons to care. That bug-eyed make-up is the only reward for watching it all the way to the end: therefore I have done you a favor. You’re welcome.

The story, such as it is, concerns a husband and wife who move into the country following the death of the husband’s brother. He’s told it was a heart attack, but later discovers that his brother suffered from some kind of violent poisoning that left his face blackened and swollen–a crime which may have something to do with the mysterious mansion across the moor, the elderly professor who lives there, and his even more mysterious daughter. Mysteeeeeeeeeerious.

Anyway, it’s all very rote, the climactic revelations are ridiculous, and the interim provides virtually nothing of interest, with the exceptions of an amusingly crazy homeless man who spills a few cryptic clues and, later in the film, an interlude of sitar music.

Honestly, it’s hard to believe it’s a Hammer picture. It contains none of the violence and sensuality I’ve come to expect from classic Hammer; no strong central performance; and it completely eschews their strategy of foregrounding the backstory in order to build our emotional connection to the story. Instead, the mystery structure saves all the explanation and character motivations for long after we’ve ceased to care. Nor is the mystery itself engaging, because we’re given too much information at the outset (the film opens with the brother’s murder), leaving the middle portion of the film to retread the same ground.

The themes are at least moderately interesting–it essentially poses the question, “How much guilt should future generations have over Britain’s history of colonialism?”, but the only answer we get is “ssssssnakeface!” so the ability for me to engage with the film on that level was also pretty limited.

I used to be able to recommend any Hammer film unreservedly, but I’ll have to be more careful in the future. I give The Reptile five yawns out of ugh, so disappointing.