Copperhead (1983)

Copperhead is a movie for people who really, really hate snakes.

It’s also a movie for people who really, really love guns.

It’s also a movie for people who really, really love to hear other people sing hymns and do yard work.

You’ve been warned.

There’s a mouse, a revolver, a pair of sunglasses, and a snake. Guess which one eats the mouse? Hint: It’s not the sunglasses. Or the revolver.

The snake takes a bite out of its prey, which bleeds and trembles in its death throes. The snake proceeds to swallow the mouse whole. It’s fascinating to witness if you’ve never seen a snake eat before. You just don’t understand how this mouse is going to fit inside this buddy’s mouth. Then you watch it happen in all its graphic horror. This is a movie for people who really, really hate mice.

A family of gun-loving thieves moves into a ramshackle house in the middle of a hot, humid forest. They clear the yard and find a copperhead. Papa busts out his Magnum and shoots it. If you’re wondering if you see an actual snake get shot by an actual gun, the answer is yes.

Snakes, of course, deserve better. They’ve been around much, much, much longer than we have and are formidable hunters. Here’s this well-dressed, scaly tube filled with badassery, and it can kill animals that have four times more legs. And all it takes is a sour-faced halfwit who wears sunglasses indoors to stop millions of years of evolution on the spot. Hey, jagoff, why don’t you pick on someone your own size? (He eventually does.)

The family buries some gold, sets booby traps, and sleeps on inflatable mattresses. Mama prays and sings about Jesus, Papa brandishes firearms, and Peggy, Curtis, and Mark bicker endlessly. One of them has an impressive, wispy mullet—it’s Peggy.

Soon copperheads descend onto the property; they’re everywhere. They slither in the kitchen, along the rugs, inside the cupboards, and in the bed. The family shoots them all with their impressive collection of guns and never-ending supply of bullets. If you’re wondering if you see actual snakes get shot by actual guns, the answer is still yes.

Meanwhile, a neighbor paints a hawk in real time.

Copperhead is pornography for gun nuts. There’s a whole lot of gun-slinging in this movie, and there’s even a scene where the family gathers around a kitchen table displaying a wide variety of firearms, including an assault rifle. I will never, ever understand why anyone would own an assault rifle. I eat tofu on the regular, so guns are simply not in my wheelhouse. Copperhead is made by people who have never even seen a vegetable before, much less tofu.

Copperhead is also pornography for snake-haters. Many copperheads were killed in the making of this film. Also, one snapping turtle. There are close-ups of blown-off heads and disemboweled carcasses and footage of copperheads slithering over their dead, rotting brethren. The snakes are wondering what the fuck they’re doing in this movie. They just want to live their lives, man.

But animal violence aside, the real issue of Copperhead is the lack of script. Shot-on-video in the backwoods of Missouri, the film consists of 10 minutes of story stretched over 90 mind-numbing minutes. There are storylines that go nowhere, a plot twist that makes no sense, an Australian accent that sounds Russian, and endless padding of snakes going about their business, which is easily the best part of the movie. People are constantly yelling at each other. Someone wants to hide. Someone wants to leave. Someone wants to stay. You definitely want to leave. There’s at least three times in the film when Mama prays to Jesus, and each time, you pray that this movie will end. And it eventually does, 80 minutes later.

Animal violence in film is not anything new. I learned what the inside of a turtle looks like from Cannibal Ferox (FYI, the spine and ribs are attached to the shell). I had to stop watching Rats: Night of Terror while I was eating dinner. But usually the violence has some sort of purpose—to titillate, offend, and shock. At least films like Snakes! treated our reptilian friends with respect while exploiting them. Copperhead doesn’t come close to titillating, offending, or shocking. Instead it bores you, which means all the copperheads died in vain. Snakes, of course, deserve better.

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