Movie Review: Rattlesnakes

By Wes Maulsby 22.04.2020 1

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Rattlesnakes (UK Rating: 18)

Based on the stage-play of the same name, Rattlesnakes is the second feature length film from writer and director, Julius Amendume. A series of misunderstandings around the methods of a controversial therapist and the husbands of his clients, leads to an intense confrontation between four men, and leaves the audience guessing whose story is the correct one. Unfortunately, attempting to piece together the truth leads to far too much confusion, and the desire for the film to be challenging and provocative results in a final product that is at times thoroughly unpleasant.


The primary goal of this film is to challenge the audience to confront both difficult subject matter and untrustworthy characters whose biases could the truth of the narrative. Good ideas on paper, and to a certain extent they are executed within the film, but in both cases, the execution is lacking. Challenging subject matter, if not handled carefully can become off-putting and unpleasant to the audience, and this is where the film falters.


The structure of the narrative follows three men who kidnap a therapist who they suspect is sleeping with all three of their wives. One by one, we get exposed to how they think the "sessions" play out with our victim's rebuttal being sprinkled in between their outbursts. Impotency, alcoholism, spousal abuse, terminal illnesses, revenge, stalking - nothing is off the table for this film, and this overload is draining. One or two of these is more than enough to get the point across, but the continuous stream of the horrible things these people are doing cause the challenge of the film to become superseded by discomfort, and a desire to leave the room and take a shower.



 

Mixed in with all of this are additional off-putting racial, homophobic, and sexual overtones. The way the three white kidnappers interact and treat their black hostage is at times reminiscent of early 20th century bothering of black men and other minorities. The films attempt to undercut this theme, is itself undercut, and later enforced by the actions and realities of the hostage.


That quirk brings up the second issue of the film - that of the unreliable "narration." There is no narration to speak of in this film, but the events are conveyed by the various characters, each of which sees the events from their own perspective. An interesting concept in the earlier stages of the film, but one that loses its potency through too many inconsistencies from the characters, and a lack of clarity within the dialogue.


One of the main reasons the men have kidnapped and held hostage this therapist is their suspicious of the affairs he is having with each of their wives. Throughout the film, the therapist denies their accusations, but the choice of words leads to confusion: at times he flatly denies any sexual relations, while at others he says that the sessions are not about sex. The vagueness around his portrayal of the events leads to immense confusion, as it becomes difficult to discern what his side of the story actually is. Obscuring the truth behind the point of view of various characters is an effective storytelling method, but without any sort of baseline to compare the stories to, any inconsistencies lead to rampant confusion. Compound this issue with a big twist ending, and all that is left is a film which will baffle audiences and leave them shouting questions at the screen.


5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

After being emotionally drained two thirds of the way through the film and being sent through the wringer in trying to figure out the many questions of the film - even down to who the protagonist is - Rattlesnakes leaves a very empty feeling for the audience. The message that everyone is awful, that no one can be trusted, and that your worst fears about a person are always true, is certainly a tried and true way for films to challenge their audience; indulging in human misery has been staple of filmmaking since its inception. However, this particular film and narrative doesn't leave much room for introspection and reflection among the volley of questions and befuddlement once the questions roll. Even with room to breathe, the reflection is moot when every character is the villain.
 

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5/10 - Thought this movie was horrendous! Acting couldn't be any worse than what it was! Direction was average to pitiful. Don't waste your time.

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