Horror Movie Review: King Cobra (1999)

Directed by David Hillenbrand Scott Hillenbrand, with the pair also writing the story alongside Guy Stodel, King Cobra is the kind of ‘science gone wrong’ film you would expect from the 90s. A sci-fi copycat horror that barely tries. Uneventful, unmemorable, and uninteresting, it’s not a good film.

Staying awake through it is a challenge, although if you’re like me, you’re likely to have sat up straight and cheered when the film gives us the hilarious image of a snake narrowing its eyes. Not the pupil either. It’s like it has eyebrows. If only it did, some big Groucho Marx eyebrows, then this film would be an instant recommendation.

Starring Pat Morita, Scott Hillenbrand, Hoyt Axton, Joseph Ruskin, and Courtney Gains, King Cobra tells a basic story of a genetics lab creating a hybrid snake. One made up of a King Cobra and a Rattlesnake, and one that is over 30 ft long. Of course, an accident occurs at the lab and the snake escapes. Heading off to live in the woods for a few years, before turning its attention to the small brewery town of Filmore.

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Guess what this town has coming up? A beer festival! A really important one too that the Mayor refuses to cancel, even as the bodies pile up.

Will the outgoing doctor be able to stop the snake before it is to late? Will his on/off relationship with the police chief survive the snake and his move to the big city? Will we actually see the snake at any point in the film?

The answer to all of these questions is yes. You’ve seen variations on this story for decades and will continue to see variations in the future. Although hopefully those future films are more confident in their effects so will actually let you see them. Sure, the snake looks cheap, but there are much worse effects and its practical too. Also, did I not mention they actually have the snake narrow its eyes at one point? I don’t remember much of this film, but I remember that scene.

What’s to remember though? The story is basic and trash, the characters are laughably bland, the acting is so-so, and the lack of big moments is shocking. Expecting snake carnage at the beer festival? Think again. Instead, most of the deaths occur off-screen either via the POV or the shadow of the snake. How scary.

By the time the final third comes round, most will have mentally switched off and the film makes no effort to switch your brain back on. Introducing a character played by Pat Morita who suddenly tries to add some comedic touches. Of course, like everything else (aside from the eye-narrowing scene) it falls extremely flat. There’s a reason King Cobra sank without a trace upon release.


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King Cobra (1999)
  • The Final Score - 4/10
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