Venomous (2001) -Well another snake movie this one in the guise of an epidemic film. There has been a lot of these lately and I make no apologies for that, although my views has suffered because of it. I guess snakes are not the new zombies. This one with the always interesting Treat Williams takes place in the California desert and it is a wild adventure ride. Let me not get ahead of myself though, first the setup.
The opening scene has a scientist Dr Dutton (Marc McClure) help two people he thinks are reporters, into his secret base in the Mojave desert Dept. of Defense research facility. He brings them into a room where there are lots of rattle snakes in cages, and talks to them about how they are doing gene splicing with infective agents. He thinks he is being a whistle blower and setting them up for a great story. What he doesn't know is they are actually Iraqi terrorist here to fight for their homeland. When they see the snakes the two kill Dutton and a couple other people before dying in a shootout outside. The bomb they left behind explodes blasting the building open and releasing all the dangerous snakes.
Lee de Broux) has to head into town so he calls his dog Gertrude in from the desert. Poor dog is bitten by a rattler on the way in, but Bob does not notice the bite while petting the dog. Sad news for old Bob because on his way into town he suddenly gets ill and collapses in his truck.
This brings him to the hospital and Dr. David Henning (Treat Williams) and he just doesn't know what is causing the illness. When Bob quickly dies, David calls his wife in Maryland a worker for the Dept. of Defense Virology Research Center asking if she could run some more sophisticated blood test on a sample he will send. They set up that David and wife Susan (Mary Page Keller) are breaking up, hell she is already using her maiden name again. Later when she calls back it is a brand new virus, and she says she will take it to her superiors.
Another case comes in Billy (Brian Poth) who was bitten by a rattler, that fool gets the anti-venom and then heads to his job at the local diner. Cooking for a good portion of the town mean the virus is about to spread really fast. It is not long before people are pouring into the hospital sick and quickly dying. This is a full blown epidemic and so far all the pieces are not in place to be sure it is the rattlers although Henning does have the idea as a possibility. He send more samples to his wife but then a twist happens.
Her boss Gen Arthur Manchek (Geoff Pierson) knows what this knew virus is but he is not talking. Since we had the opening scene we can put two and two together and see that he and the DoD covered up the escaped snakes ten year before. This virus we learn is similar but not an exact match so breeding in the wild has changed it a bit. So if they deal with this event and send in a cure there will be all kinds of questions that may expose him and his boss Major Gen. Sparks (Tony Denison). They can't have that so they intercept the next shipment of blood samples from Santa Mira and replace them with blood containing e coli. This of course throws the search for a cure for a loop.
Meanwhile Henning is coping and figuring out that the snake bites and close proximity to someone who was bitten is how the virus is spread. Susan rushes back to the town and soon is working with him to figure out an antiviral medication they can manufacture to save the town. Mixed in with this is snake collecting to milk venom, more victims, people trying and failing to get out of the quarantine, soldiers hassling citizens, and the ever recurring earthquakes, where each time the ground rumbles we get shots of underground snakes breaking out of the ground coming right at the camera fangs bared.
So the two tracks of the movie are established, the doctors seeking a cure but being hampered by a Department of defense determined to firebomb the region, a thing they call directive 712. It all comes together as the cure is found, but at the same time the Generals lie to the White House and say everyone in town has died of an ebola type virus and the only way to be sure the virus does not spread is to go ahead with directive 712. They get the okay and have to do everything in their power to make sure the media just outside the quarantine zone don't see anyone alive. The plane is in the air when our hero doctors try to make sure Horton hears a who.
This film overall is pretty lame, sort of a TV movie with decent acting but nothing challenging or surprising. It plays out just as expected even the relationships which were so blatantly set up turn out as expected. The effects with some live snakes but more silly looking rubber ones were disappointing. There were the requisite number of close calls and family and friends sick, to set up a race for the cure but at every step you saw it coming. So I don't think I can recommend this film although I thought it was at least a more complex script that Snake Island (2002) don't go out of your way to find it.
Rating (4.3) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.