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Two Horror Films from Fox

Aliens vs Predator: Requiem (June 7/09)

Though it's been saddled with a more appropriate R rating (as opposed to Alien vs Predator's head-scratching PG-13), Aliens vs Predator: Requiem ultimately doesn't fare a whole lot better than its underwhelming predecessor - as the movie has been suffused with a myriad of questionable elements that are exacerbated by the pervasive darkness in which the storyline unfolds. Said storyline - which follows several hopelessly bland figures as they find themselves caught in the middle of the title creatures' ongoing battle - boasts exceedingly few attributes designed to capture (and sustain) the viewer's interest, with the emphasis consistently placed on subplots that couldn't possibly be less enthralling (ie the arrival of the vicious monsters forces several squabbling teenagers to put aside their petty differences and work together). Directors Colin and Greg Strause's decision to infuse the proceedings with an almost egregiously slick sensibility - something that's particularly noticeable in the overuse of computer-generated effects - results in an experience that's akin to watching someone play a videogame, and the aggressively underlit atmosphere effectively ensures that virtually all of the movie's action sequences come off as hopelessly incoherent and frustratingly unwatchable (with the climactic fight between the two central beasts subsequently rendered unintelligible). The end result is an utterly needless sequel that's sure to disappoint fans of both franchises, although - admittedly - it's hard not to get a kick out of a third-act callback to the first Predator film wherein one character yells to another, "get to the chopper!"

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Silent Venom (June 8/09)

Terrible even by direct-to-video standards, Silent Venom details the chaos that ensues after a scientist (Krista Allen's Andrea Swanson) and her bumbling assistant (Louis Mandylor's Jake Goldin) surreptitiously bring 20 deadly snakes aboard a decommissioned submarine - with the bulk of the proceedings subsequently following the ship's crew (including Luke Perry's James O'Neill and Anthony Tyler Quinn's Eddie Boudreau) as they attempt to battle the highly poisonous reptiles. It's a campy premise that should've resulted in a fun, unapologetically tongue-in-cheek endeavor somewhere along the lines of Snakes on a Plane (Snakes on a Sub, perhaps), yet director Fred Olen Ray's various efforts at overcoming the movie's obvious low budget generally fall flat and there's ultimately little doubt that the whole thing suffers from a pervasive atmosphere of shoddiness that proves impossible to overlook. The consistently illogical nature of Mark Sanderson's screenplay is exacerbated by the film's almost egregiously deliberate pace, with the former exemplified by the laughable manner with which the snakes repeatedly slither under the feet of the uniformly oblivious characters (ie apparently none of these folks possess peripheral vision). And although the various performers certainly try their hardest at elevating the material, Silent Venom remains a particularly potent exercise in bottom-of-the-barrel filmmaking virtually from start to finish - with the lack of gore and hilariously subpar special effects ensuring that even horror buffs will find exceedingly little worth embracing here.

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About the DVDs: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment offers up anamorphic transfers for both titles, and although Silent Venom doesn't boast a single extra, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem contains a commentary track, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more.
© David Nusair