aka Anaconda 2
Directors/Screenplay/Producers – David & Scott Hillenbrand, Photography – Philip D. Schwartz, Music – David Berrel, Visual Effects Supervisor – Reid Burns, Creature Effects – CBFX (Charles, Edward & Steven Chiodo), Special Effects – Sandro Moro, Judith H.A. Pope & Jor Van Kline, Production Design – Jack Cloud. Production Company – Hill and Brand Productions, Ltd 2
Scott Brandon (Dr Brad Kagan), Pat Morita (Professor Nick Hashimoto), Casey Fallo (Jo Biddle), Eric Lawson (Sheriff Ben Lowry), Hoyt Axton (Mayor Ed Biddle), Joseph Ruskin (Dr Irwin Burns), Cedric Duplechain (Deputy Bud Fuller), Courtney Gains (Dr Joseph McConnell), Paul Morgan Frederix (Dr Patrick Kagan), Michael Leopard (Buck), Jerry Kernion (Conrad), Arell Blanton (Jesse), Catalina Larranaga (Kathryn Burns), Nick Jameson (Jurgen), Erik Estrada (Bernie Alvarez)
Dr Irwin Burns is experimenting with an ultra-powerful sake venom as a means of controlling aggression. His laboratory assistant Joseph McConnell then impulsively tries the venom on himself with disastrous consequences. In the small town of Fillmore, GP Brad Kagan is about to move to the big city when he is suddenly confronted with a rash of snakebite victims. He soon discovers they are dealing with a snake some 40 feet long.
In historic retrospect, Jurassic Park (1993) may be seen as every bit as important a progenitor as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) was in creating the atomic monster movie in the 1950s. As The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms did in the 1950s, so Jurassic Park did similar things in the 1990s, unleashing a horde of B-budget dinosaur movies. More importantly, Jurassic Park also created the CGI monster movie wherein classic monsters/animals amok themes were reworked with much more lavish effects, usually featuring genetic engineering themes as explain-all of their condition.
King Cobra is a genetically engineered giant snake movie. We have had the CGI giant snake movie before – the laughable Anaconda (1997). In fact, King Cobra was billed as Anaconda 2 in some places but is otherwise unrelated (the producers somehow hoping that audiences would not notice that the cobra is a venomous snake not a constrictor). King Cobra is actually a better film than Anaconda. Technically, it is not a CGI monster movie at all. The snake in question is an animatronic one, which has been created by the Chiodo Brothers, who also created the Critters (1986) and the Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988). The Chiodo Brothers certainly deliver a convincing and effective creation. The snake’s appearances are kept brief for nearly half the film, which serves to heighten its effectiveness. When eventually seen, both its size and the fluidity of the Chiodo Brothers animatronics are impressive. The directing team of the Hillenbrand Brothers create some suspenseful scenes – especially a scene where a group of redneck hunters are being pursued by the snake in the woods, one of them trying to stop it killing his friend only for the friend’s head to keep getting in the way as he tries to shoot; or the eerie scene where the party ties up a goat to lure it. Pat Morita is cast for name value but turns the comic rolypolyness he specializes in these days into an effective part where he calmly states some unusual statistics about snakes and the means of outwitting them.
On the minus side, the Hillenbrand’s script is thin on the ground. They tread in clichés – taken straight from Jaws (1975) is the cliché character of the mayor wanting news of the snake hushed, this time for fear of losing a micro-brewing festival!! More irritatingly, they set up an extended prologue about how doctor Joseph Ruskin’s assistant Courtney Gains recklessly injects himself with the snake serum, which seems to turn him into the giant snake. This however has nothing to do with anything that appears later in the film – one would think that the connection to Ruskin’s assistant would have made for some plot development later but this is not the case. In fact, the assistant is never ever referred to again and the film could easily have happened without the prologue. Erik Estrada has an awful cameo as a flamboyantly gay parade organizer.
David and Scott Hillenbrand subsequently went onto make various other genre films, including the purportedly terrible Demon Island (2002) about a haunted piñata, the computer game come to life film Game Box 1.0 (2004) and the horror spoof Transylmania (2009), as well as produced Grave Secrets (2013) and the short-lived horror anthology tv series Deadtime Stories (2013-4). Their greatest success has been the frat comedy Dorm Daze (2003) and its sequel.