The Reptile

Posted by drew On August - 17 - 20101,806 views

The Reptile

You’ve probably guessed this by now, but I’m a huge fan of Hammer studios and the gothic horror films they used to make. They represent the kind of horror movies we rarely see anymore, despite several attempts to revive the gothic setting – most notably, Van Helsing and the remake of the Wolfman, which despite being callbacks to Universal’s own long history of horror, have Hammer’s fingerprints all over them.

The Reptile is one of the more offbeat entries in gothic cinema. Not because it doesn’t have all of the classic touches – indeed, they’re all there. Spooky countryside, big, old houses, and of course a monster. And it’s the reptilian beastie of the title that makes this movie unique, because she is one of the few female monsters in cinema history.

I fondly remember first coming across this movie on late night TV at the tender age of seven. While already a horror nut, well versed in both classic horror and the slasher movies of the day, the sight of the Reptile in all her gory glory, freaked me out. I have to say; whoever did the relatively simple make-up really should pat themselves on the back. A far cry from the vampire glamour girls populating other Hammer features, the Reptile is green, pop eyed, and scary. It was enough to make me avoid the movie for years to come.

Of course now I’m an adult, not a jumpy youth, so I’ve had plenty of time to rediscover this flick and the pleasures to be had – and what pleasures they are. The movie features a fine cast, including Hammer regulars like Jennifer Daniel, Michael Ripper, and Noel Willman, as well as sturdy, classic direction by veteran horror film maker John Gilling.

Filmed back to back with “Plague of the Zombies” and using many of the same sets, the movie follows a young couple who inherits a cottage from the husband’s deceased brother. Shunned by everyone but the local innkeeper, the couple soon hears about a strange plague wrecking havoc on the village. Since this is a Hammer horror film, we all know that a monster must be on the prowl. But The Reptile takes its time in revealing its titular villain, and is all the better for it. The build-up adds to the shock, like a snake coiling around its intended prey.

Which brings me to another interesting thing about this movie. There is no clear-cut hero. That role shifts from the husband to the innkeeper, and finally the wife. In other films, I think this might end up weakening the story as a whole. But here it adds to the feeling of overwhelming evil.

My final thoughts? Sick of vampires, but love spooky castles? Rent The Reptile. Looking for some old school horror but seen almost everything else? Rent The Reptile! Feeling like you’re in need of a new phobia and fear of snakes might do the trick? RENT The REPTILE!!! You get the picture!

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