The Snake Pit Review

With The Snake Pit I was on the fence about whether I should make this a full film review or since it’s based on a semi-autobiographical novel make this one of those non scored film look throughs. The names are switched of course but based on the book quite a lot of this seems to be based on her adventures if the book is to be believed. Semi-Autobiographical seems like an odd term since I guess some parts are true and some aren’t….Well mix that in with how the film apparently changes some things as well I’ll just go with the review approach on this one.

The movie starts by introducing us to a lady named Virginia Cunningham. She’s currently staying at a hospital because she has grown insane over the years. She is married to Robert but no longer recognizes him and has a lot of voices in her head that cause her to doubt things further. She has no real memory now and tends to go off on tangents. Right now, she is in one of the deeper wings of the hospital with other people currently having mental issues and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope. Fortunately, Dr. Kik takes an interest in her case and decides to cure her. Will he be able to pull this off and what caused her breakdown in the first place?

The film isn’t a mystery title but it does follow that kind of formula where we slowly begin to learn more about her backstory as the movie goes on. At first we have no context for what happened to her but Kik begins to bring this out slowly but surely during their sessions. Of course that in itself is a big part of the mystery so I won’t be saying what the results were. Needless to say, a big thing here is moving on from the past and trying to reclaim your life again.

Virginia is a good main character and the voices in her head are always entertaining especially when they’re arguing with each other. One might say “Smile” but the other one quickly responds with “Careful” so Virginia isn’t sure what to do. These debates are usually very quick but always fun. Naturally the voices start to vanish as the film goes on but they help make everything feel like a conspiracy. At one point she even thinks that Roger may be fake and the whole thing is a trap. Now that would have been crazy if that ended up being the case.

Virginia does her best to recover even though she is sometimes put in tricky situations like with Nurse Davis. Davis didn’t like her from the start and that definitely slows Virginia down near the end. For the most part Virginia gets along with everyone else though and she is a nice character so that makes it easy to gain allies here. She even helps some of the other patients start to recover with how supportive she is.

While the film’s pacing is pretty good there was one act that I think could have really been cut out. Throughout the film we see Virginia’s journey upwards. In this hospital you start at a low numbered ward to show that you are still quite ill and you move up as you start to recover. If you make it to Ward 1 then you’re about ready to leave. So it was a clear cut journey and then right when it seems like you’re at the end of the film….they send Virginia all the way back to the end in Ward 33 or something like that. It’s like completing a video game at level 100 and suddenly being forced back to 1 for New Game+.

I thought this really only served to drag the film out a bit and definitely could have been cut out. The film had been moving really well before that with no issues or anything like that. This was the only part of the film that felt a little boring at some points because it just seemed like we had been through this already. This ward was even worse than the one Virginia was in at first so I guess that adds to the tension but it just wasn’t needed.

The supporting characters were solid. First you have Robert who really wants Virginia to be well at soon as possible. He ends up rushing the process at one point which doesn’t work out so well but you can see why he did this. In a lot of these films the wards end up having some kind of sinister twist to them and she seemed well enough from his perspective. He was consistent about visiting her every day and not giving up so you have to give him a lot of credit there. He was definitely someone she could count on and really lived up to his part of the vow.

Then there is Kik who ends up being quite solid. At first I had my reservations about him, particularly when he was recommending shock treatment since 9 times out of 10 that’s a really bad idea. He did know what he was doing though and it all worked out pretty well. In the end he was the most reasonable doctor there and definitely a master of his craft. For once there was no dark secret here or nefarious intentions. He just wanted to make her better.

As for Virginia’s backstory, well it was definitely an intense one. It’s interesting seeing the events from her point of view as well since you can’t trust anything 100% since she is framing it in the way that she wants to see things. You may be a little skeptical at how this causes the complete breakdown later on but I suppose you can never know what will be the trigger. I didn’t think it really explained her more violent tendencies so well but either way aside from the bite she never attacked anyone so that may have been a more mild effect.

Overall, while the film deals with a lot of darker themes here, I would say it’s an uplifting movie overall. It’s got a very clear journey of recovery as Virginia is able to regain her senses and be normal again. The character cast is good and the writing is solid as well. The only part of the film where it hits a snag is with going back to the final ward. It just felt like a big way to lose momentum and give us events we had just gotten past. You could easily have cut out moments like the dance and all related plot lines as well. Ultimately if we had to go in this direction I would have had her start out in Ward 33. At least it does explain the Snake Pit title for the film by the end.

Overall 6/10

Summer of Fear Review

It’s time for an old horror film that has not aged well in any shape of form. “So what are we looking at Bob?” “Well, this film has your usual horror tropes. We have an animal death, rebound characters, a villain who is more interested in seducing than murdering people, no character acting sensible…etc” “Maybe we should say these tropes are just common in bad films then?” “Sounds about right. The film does have a big car chase at the end at least” “Bold move Phil…lets see how it plays out!”

The film starts off with our introduction to Rachel. Her life is pretty complete now as she’s together with the cool kid on campus, Mike, and is even going to enter the big horse competition. She’s got it made, but then news arrives that Julia is going to be staying with her family. Julia’s parents died in a car crash, but Julia managed to live. When she arrives, Rachel’s horse tries to murder her, but is quickly stopped. Something seems off about Julia. Rachel doesn’t know if its the occult possessions that she has around like the cursed marionettes, old horse manes, teeth, etc, or if it’s the fact that everyone seems to be strangely attracted too her. Rachel doesn’t care too much, but slowly Julia starts to take everything away from her. Can Rachel out Julia as a witch or will she simply be destroyed?

The film’s definitely a real slow burner, but it’s one that never feels like you’re building up to something hype. You’ll just be wondering where it all went wrong instead. First off, a teenage girl infiltrating the house as a witch doesn’t even sound all that scary on paper. The film doesn’t go for the scare factor until the final minutes either where Julia shows off her true form. It’s more grotesque than scary, but I guess I’ll give the film some kudos for trying. Julia also has some basic magic powers at her disposal. These include telekinesis, mild super strength, and attraction abilities. She’s just not too smart about using them and instead of holding the main characters in place or something, she drives after them. Since Julia never earned her driver’s license legitimately, she wasn’t prepared for the sharp turns on the mountain. Someone should have told her about the hand brakes.

I definitely couldn’t take her seriously as a villain and what was even her goal? It sounds like she planned to murder them all anyway, but why not do it immediately and then move on? She had dozens of opportunities to pull it off. If her goal was to simply make Rachel’s life miserable and then murder everyone, it’s an unnecessarily risky plan. Rachel could have done something drastic like try to murder Julia in her sleep or people may have found out and stopped her. As it is, Rachel’s Mom started to grow weary of the situation. She didn’t handle it well either, but more on that later. Julia’s just not a very smart antagonist, or even a particularly strong one.

I didn’t like Rachel either. Noticing that Julia had a picture of her with sores and then having it happen should have been the big tip off. The horse tooth/mane as well. Instead Rachel would go about it in the worst way possible like yelling about it in front of everyone so they think she’s crazy. Then letting Mike go off with Julia to the dance wasn’t a good move either. Finally, Rachel got a picture of Julia to prove that she was a witch, but instead of convincing the Mom to develop it she starts stating her accusations. Before calling someone a witch, you should probably think all of the angles through. It’s just worth a few extra moments to think of a more surefire plan if you ask me. She could have made a deal with the Mom like saying she’d try harder to bond with Julia if she had a picture. So much for that though.

The Dad looks pretty terrible since he falls for Julia’s charms and gets mind controlled. The same goes for Mike since mind controlled or not, he went for the rebound right away. Mind Control isn’t really an excuse that I buy into. The Mom notices that the Dad starts to be unfaithful, but she does absolutely nothing about it. At the very least you’d want her to get Julia out of there or to confront her. She just cries about it and leaves town for some shopping. Not the best way to handle the situation, but it’s a good way to leave Julia unsupervised in a house of potential targets.

As I mentioned earlier, to add injury to an already broken film, a horse dies. Julia got it out of the way because it knew the truth about her. If only Rachel had acted sooner this could have been avoided, but not this time since everyone was too slow. It’s definitely a pretty annoying scene. It’s reminiscent of the whole film though as you’ll be annoyed throughout the movie. None of the characters are on the same page and as a result Julia just walks all over them. It was also awfully convenient that nobody knew how Julia was supposed to look so they didn’t know she was actually someone else. I’ll assume there was no mind wipe here so it was just a plot device.

No worries, there is a twist ending here. I can’t say that it’s very thrilling and I suppose you’ll only get a kick out of it if you’re a big Julia fan. You just know that this next family isn’t going to fare too well against Julia either. You could argue that their best chance is to be totally oblivious to her, but she’ll still murder them anyway so it’s a lose-lose situation. At least the cops took the situation in stride so maybe one of them will recall the former case and attack Julia. More likely he’ll turn over his badge to her though so you can’t count on that.

Overall, This film was definitely a flop. It never even feels like a horror film and is instead like a very poorly written drama. There’s no intensity here, just bad characters and writing. I think the only character that seemed to be okay was Rachel’s best friend from the hospital. She was reasonable and much more likable than the others. It’s probably for the best that she didn’t appear much or things may not have ended well for her. We had the occult professor who knew about Julia’s tricks, but still didn’t do anything to stop her from defeating him. His only purpose in the film is to confirm Rachel’s fears, but we didn’t need him in the film. She would have been forced to accept the situation at some point anyway. There’s just not much to like about this film and I can’t see any reason why someone would want to check it out. I’d highly recommend you avoid this film as much as possible. It’s not good as a horror film or as a romance title. It’s just a film that you want to forget as quickly as possible.

Overall 2/10