RATTLESNAKE (2019)

Rattlesnake.jpg

Studio:      Netflix
Director:    Zak Hilditch
Writer:      Zak Hilditch
Producer:  Ross M. Dinerstein
Stars:     Carmen Ejogo, Theo Rossi, Emma Greenwell, Apollonia Pratt

Review Score:

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Summary:

To save her daughter from a deadly snakebite, a desperate mother unknowingly makes a murderous pact with a mysterious woman.


Synopsis:     

Review:

While I*m writing this review, &Film Twitter* currently spins in a tizzy regarding reports of Netflix introducing variable playback speeds.

In this media-saturated culture of ours, overwhelming entertainment options continually fly at us far faster than they can possibly be processed. For every new movie or show added to an already obese streaming queue we*ll never conceivably empty, there*s a friend, family member, or co-worker assuring us something else we*ll never realistically have time for is ※so good!§ and we ※have to watch it!§

People already play audio podcasts at 1.25x or 1.5x speeds to make up for the slack in silence and slowly spoken words. Netflix logically wonders, why not apply this idea to video so viewers can absorb content quicker and, as a result, more often?

Conveniently overlooking that you can already do this on any standard DVR, DVD, or Blu-ray player, ※back in my day§ purists consider the notion to be cinematic sacrilege. Filmmaker Brad Bird apocalyptically posits that giving viewers control over playback is ※another spectacularly bad idea§ that would ※destroy the presentation of those films.§ Judd Apatow warns, ※don*t f*ck with our timing.§ Apatow also digs out the old chestnut of how movies ※were intended to be seen§ as an antiquated excuse for impeding the natural evolution of content consumption in an increasingly active 21st century.

In other words, sorry if you*re a busy parent working demanding hours and raising a family who has limited opportunities for entertainment. The director of ※Knocked Up§ unrealistically insists he should have final say dictating how you manage your free time.

Others arrogantly argue if movies are a chore to rush through, you should be denied the privilege of watching them in the first place. Such sanctimony apparently doesn*t apply to tweeting alongside a live airing or any of the other new ways we filter media in the social network age. Seems like yesterday mobs were rallying behind David Lynch when he decried cellphones as a screening medium. Now we don*t bat a lash at someone watching films on an iPad in a waiting room or at the gym.

We*ll weather this current gatekeeping controversy too because, like Spielberg lamenting the progressive shift from theaters to living rooms, outcry comes from nostalgia for an ideal that doesn*t actually exist. If multiplexes delivered an authentic communal viewing experience instead of an obnoxious cacophony of bag rustling, loud talking, and bright cellphones, audiences wouldn*t migrate to a preferable alternative. Similarly, what the reductive case against variable playback speed ignores is that not every movie is a carefully orchestrated symphony of painstaking precision. In reality, we can safely breeze by certain sections, even entire scenes, without any quantifiably detrimental impact to some romanticized ※experience.§

With that in mind, ※Rattlesnake§ might be a ringer released by Netflix to illustrate exactly why we need, perhaps even deserve, the ability to blaze through boringness on our own terms. Still skeptical? Let me break down the movie by minute. Then you tell me if you absolutely must have all 85 to truly experience the film, or if fast-forwarding in 10-20 would do just fine.

00:00-04:00 每 In between title cards, a pass谷 drone shot follows a car down a desert highway in the center of the frame. We*re introduced to single mother Katrina and her darling daughter Clara in a routine audience meet-cute where they giggle while playing a game. Hopefully that*s enough adorableness to become emotionally invested, because that*s the early extent of their bond.

04:00-12:00 每 A series of complications leaves mother and daughter stranded on a remote road. When a rattlesnake bites Clara, Katrina rushes to a nearby trailer for help. A mysterious woman cryptically promises to heal Clara in exchange for an unspecified payment. Clara*s wound inexplicably vanishes. So does the weird woman.

12:00-15:00 每 Katrina takes Clara to get checked out at a hospital. Everything appears to be fine.

15:00-17:00 每 A mysterious man clarifies what the mysterious woman meant by ※payment.§ If Katrina wants her daughter to stay healthy, she must murder someone else before sundown. The man pulls a ※poof§ of his own, leaving Katrina frightened and confused regarding the supernatural spookiness going on.

17:00-25:00 每 Katrina returns to where the trailer was only to encounter another taunting ghoul. Online research reveals these ghosts were murdered in the same ※soul for a soul§ cycle Katrina now finds herself in. No doubt about it, she*s going to have to kill someone for her daughter*s sake.

25:00-35:00 每 Reasoning euthanasia isn*t as bad, Katrina schemes to suffocate a terminally ill old man. She ultimately can*t convince herself to commit a mercy murder however.

35:00-42:00 每 Katrina resets her sights on Billy, an abusive boyfriend spotted berating his lady in a bar. ※I Fall to Pieces§ plays on a radio to unsubtly underscore Katrina*s deteriorating mental state.

42:00-51:00 每 A burning priest compels Katrina to shoot Billy with a handgun. This vision kicks off a goose chase where Katrina goes to a gun store, then to a black market dealer, then watches online videos, then practices firing all just to put one weapon in her hand.

51:00-57:00 每 Katrina infiltrates Billy*s home only to hem, haw, and hide in his closet while getting up the gumption to act.

57:00-1:03:00 每 Katrina finally captures Billy and forces him to drive to remote rocks.

1:03:00-1:09:00 每 Billy breaks away from Katrina. She searches for him in a canyon, encounters another ghost, and records a confessional video for Clara because she bizarrely decides to just kill herself instead.

1:09:00-1:17:00 每 Billy resurfaces for a climax that snatches all of the hard choices right out of Katrina*s hands.

1:17:00-1:21:00 每 An epilogue isn*t nearly as eerie as it intends to be.

1:21:00-1:25:00 每 End credits.

Where do you suppose suspense resides in the timeline above? Is it in the ten minutes of second thoughts Katrina has before not going through with her initial attack plan? Is it in the nine minutes of Katrina chasing down a gun that only peripherally plays a part in the final outcome? How about the six minutes spent sweating to work up the nerve to kidnap Billy? What are we supposed to find thrilling about a movie made up of scenes that drag their heels until they don*t materially matter?

More importantly, what satisfaction am I supposedly denying the filmmaker if I hurry through all of this pointlessly padded fluff? The dull derivativeness of ※Rattlesnake§ isn*t punishment enough that I have to endure it in real time too?

I don*t believe ※Rattlesnake§ was born from a burning yearning to tell a cool ※Twilight Zone§ tale. Desires to produce conveyor belt product drive disposable factory filler like this. And if creators have the option to cut corners to quicken their workload, they ought to extend that courtesy to their audience too. Put another way, if you*re going to give me mundane movies like ※Rattlesnake,§ you*d better give me the means to artificially inject my own jolts by increasing its speed.

You*ll never remember whether you watched ※Rattlesnake§ in 80 minutes or just the eight it actually needs anyway. You*ll only know that however long it was, that was time better spent doing anything else. Variable playback isn*t a curse. ※Rattlesnake§ convinces me it*s an indispensible requirement.

Review Score: 35