Movies & TV / Columns

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Snake Eater

May 14, 2024 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Snake Eater Image Credit: Media Home Entertainment

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #610: Snake Eater

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been on an undercover stakeout, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number six hundred and ten, I take a look at the classic Canadian action flick Snake Eater, which hit movie screen in the United States in May 1989.

Snake Eater

Image Credit: Media Home Entertainment

Snake Eater, directed by George Erschbamer, is probably best known as both the first major starring action role for the great Lorenzo Lamas and as the first in a three movie low budget action movie franchise that was in every video store back in the day (although it always seemed like the video store had the two sequels, Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster and Snake Eater III:… His Law, at least that was my experience). Snake Eater was also on cable all of the time, too. Snake Eater is a weird little action movie, part “scumbum badass cop” movie, part “deadly hillbillies in the woods” movie, and part First Blood homage. It mostly works, and while it is a fine vehicle for star Lamas, it could have used a little more action. More fighting, more gun battles, stuff like that.

Snake Eater stars Lamas as Jack Kelly, a badass scumbum “New York City” cop who is nicknamed “Soldier,” despite having a super badass background with the Marines (clearly no one involved in making the movie ever actually knew a Marine as Marines are Marines, not soldiers). Kelly is also a super violent cop that likes to take out criminals and suspects with elaborate booby traps. After dealing with two scumbag drug dealers and getting naked with the lead drug dealer’s girlfriend (the woman, Chloe, as played by Mowava Pryor, is sent in first to see if Kelly is wearing a wire, and for no reason beyond “it’s in the script” Chloe and Kelly strip down to their birthday suits. It’s a hilarious sequence), getting suspended (Kelly seems to get suspended by his superiors quite a bit), and then getting into a brawl with a motorcycle gang, Kelly heads to Tennessee to find out who killed his parents. Kelly’s parents were taking a trip down the river on their boat when the boat was attacked by a band of demented hillbillies led by the super evil Junior (Robert Scott). Kelly’s Mom and Dad (Dorothy and Harold, as played by Jackie Lesage and Bob Piedalve) were butchered by Junior and his minions/siblings, their boat was set on fire, and Kelly’s teen sister Jennifer (Cheryl Jeans) was missing (she was kidnapped by Junior).

So Kelly heads to Tennessee via motorcycle and immediately starts investigating. While talking to the owner of the marina that rented the boat to his parents (this would be King, as played by Ronnie Hawkins), Kelly gets into a brawl with some of the hillbillies that killed his parents and kidnapped his sister. Kelly gets in some good shots but, for the most part, gets his ass kicked until King and King’s niece (?), known as The Kid for some reason (and The Kid is played by Josie Bell), intervene and rescue him. After the beating, Kelly is forced to take a few days to recover and he strikes up a relationship of sorts with The Kid and King. Kelly also explains to King and The Kid why he’s in the area and what he thinks is going on (Kelly figures out very quickly that Junior and the other hillbillies are responsible for what happened to his family). King decides to help Kelly out and transforms Kelly’s badass Harley motorcycle into a sort of Jet Ski. King also supplies Kelly with a rifle.

As all of that is happening, we find out just how large Junior’s hillbilly family is (there’s like ten of them, all living out in the woods) and that Kelly’s sister Jennifer is still alive but in serious danger. Jennifer is constantly watched by Junior’s siblings, constantly fed rancid food, and is likely seconds away from either being raped or murdered or both. Jennifer is also tormented by Junior and a snake that he dangles in front of her.

So Kelly heads down the river on his Harley jet ski and is thrown from the vehicle after hitting an underwater trap set by Junior. Kelly recovers fairly quickly (thankfully for Kelly the thing he hits with his Harley jet ski isn’t deadly, just sort of annoying) and finds his dead father’s burned “Captain” hat on the shore. It’s at this moment that Kelly decides to camp out, set up his various traps and bombs and whatnot he plans to use on Junior and his family, and tries to psych himself up about what he has to do next: save his sister and kill as many evil hillbilly scumbags that get in his way.

As all of that is happening, King decides to head down the river to help Kelly, a nice gesture that doesn’t end well for King (Junior finds out that King is in the area and decides to attack him with a weapon that will make it look like King was attacked a by a bear). The Kid also decides to go down the river and into the woods to help Kelly. Things don’t go well for The Kid, either, but Kelly does kill off one of the hillbillies before both he and The Kid end up getting captured by Junior’s family.

So then Junior has his minions put Kelly and The Kid in a diabolical sleeping bag torture device (basically, Kelly and the Kid are tied up inside a sleeping bag and then the sleeping bag is tied to and dangled from a tree branch. After a day or two Kelly and The Kid will sweat so much they will “cook” inside of the sleeping bag). But then Junior’s brother Slim (Barry Minshell) decides to try to rape The Kid, an act which causes Kelly to get loose. Slim is killed, and it’s at this moment that Kelly decides to stop screwing around. Kelly, Soldier, is going to go all Marine Special Forces on Junior, and he’s going to rescue his sister or die trying. And so that’s what he does.

Snake Eater is weird because it goes off in directions you don’t expect it to. I was surprised that, instead of having Lorenzo Lamas stay in the city and use his considerable war fighting skills on street gangs and whatnot, the movie has Lamas go off into the woods to fight bad guys. It’s also weird how Lamas, who was part of the Marine Special Forces group known as “the Snake Eaters,” isn’t more proficient in the woods fighting the hillbilly bad guys. I mean, yes, the hillbilly bad guys live in the woods and would be super proficient in being bad guys in the woods (killing people, killing animals, living off the land, etc.) and they outnumber Lamas by a significant amount, but why isn’t Lamas better at being a one man army? Snake Eater came out after action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Ahnold Schwarzenegger perfected the “one man army” motif in First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, and Commando. Lamas would have to compete with those two and everyone else doing the same sort of thing. And the character Lamas plays in Snake Eater isn’t very good at being a one man army in the woods. He gets captured easily, he can’t sense the two big traps that end up tripping him up (should a “Snake Eater” ever step into a bear trap?), and while he is a good fighter it almost seems like he survives his ordeal more by luck than actual skill.

I guess you could argue that Junior and his hillbilly family are meant to be more than a match for Lamas’ Kelly and that their “final battle” in the woods is supposed to be a showcase of the best against the best, but it doesn’t come off as that. More often than not, Lorenzo Lamas looks like a chump. And that, to me, is just weird. He shouldn’t be an unstoppable killing machine or anything like that, but it just seems wrong for the Lorenzo Lamas character to not be in control, or seem like he’s in control, of the situation at all times. It’s going against the grain of the “typical” action movie hero of the time a bit too much.

But isn’t that why Snake Eater and Lorenzo Lamas’ Jack Kelly are “more interesting” than the non-stop killing machine cliché? That could be what director Erschbamer and screenwriters Michael Paseornek and John Dunning were going for, to be just different enough from the pack to be somewhat unique while also delivering on the action bits action movie fans would expect. If it was, I appreciate them trying to do something different, but at the same time I’m not sure it entirely works.

Is Kelly supposed to be the ultimate badass only when he’s in the city? Why would that be the case? Why would he be smarter than everyone else, more resourceful than everyone else, in an environment that isn’t necessarily his? Are we supposed to believe that the Snake Eaters Marine outfit that Kelly was a part of specialized in city warfare? That doesn’t seem like something that would happen in this kind of low budget action movie.

And why isn’t a Marine like Kelly pissed off with his nickname Soldier? Marines are not soldiers. Why not just have the Snake Eaters be a group within the U.S. Army?

The action scenes in Snake Eater are competent but nothing particularly special. Lamas really doesn’t get to show off his martial arts skills as much as he would in later low budget action movies, but then Snake Eater is his first starring role in an action movie so the world at large isn’t entirely sure what “Lorenzo Lamas” is supposed to be. When Lamas made Snake Eater he was known as more of a romantic leading man type after appearing in the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. So, again, while the Lorenzo Lamas we see in Snake Eater isn’t the same Lorenzo Lamas that we would see in later movies, Snake Eater is trying to figure out what the heck Lorenzo Lamas is supposed to be.

There is quite a bit of sleaze and general nastiness in Snake Eater, and I definitely leans into a kind of sadism when it comes to Junior’s family and its exploits. The sequence on the Kelly family boat will creep you the hell out (there’s a real uneasiness about the whole sequence because you’re never sure what the heck is going to happen). And when Jennifer is mistreated in the woods by Junior and his family, every second will make your skin crawl. The sleaze we get at the very beginning of the movie, when we see Kelly and Chloe strip in front of one another, the sleaze on display is weird and kind of playful. As the movie progresses that sleaze just gets worse and worse and harder to watch.

The movie also has a bizarre sense of humor, which is fully on display via pro football player Larry Csonka as Detective Bronsky, who seems to function as Kelly’s boss. You expect to see pro football legend Csonka be a badass, too, but he’s just a goofball alongside his partner Detective Santucci (Ben DiGregorio). They’re on a stakeout, messing around in the car and mistreating a homeless guy (does Bronsky give the homeless guy a cup of urine? Or did Bronsky urinate into a cup that still had a little coffee in it?). We never see them join in on the action. The immortal Ron Palillo, Horshack hisself, pops up at the very end of the movie as an arsonist that Kelly arrests. It’s a funny sequence that comes off as more of a improv sketch than an actual scripted scene. And it’s goddamn Horshack, how much of a threat could he be? Remember how Horshack’s presence turned out in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives!? Exactly.

Lamas, despite everything about his character that doesn’t make any sense, does a decent job as Jack “Soldier” Kelly. He looks like a star, tries to act like one, and has an obvious screen charisma. It’s not his best movie performance by any stretch, but Kelly isn’t a bad way to begin an action star career.

Robert Scott does a great job as Junior, the head of the evil hillbilly family. He’s creepy and nasty and you hate him throughout, not because he’s a hillbilly but because Junior is such a terrible person. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about him, and that’s hard to do while also somehow being watchable as hell, which is what Scott is. Barry Minshull is also terrific as Slim, Junior’s brother and fellow evil hillbilly. Sandra Brown will also creep you the hell out as Sissy, the only female hillbilly we see in the movie.

Josie Bell does a nice job as The Kid, the local woman that Kelly teams up with. She can handle herself in the action moments she is called to do, and she has good chemistry with both Lamas and Ronnie Hawkins. I would love to know why the hell she wasn’t given a proper name beyond The Kid. Why not Samantha the Kid or something? And Cheryl Jeans goes through some of the nastiest stuff in the movie as Jennifer Kelly. As soon as you see her in her bikini lounging on her parents’ boat you’re worried about what’s going to happen to her. And then you’re creeped the hell out once you see what she has to deal with until her big brother finds her. Good job.

Snake Eater is a weird little action movie. It isn’t what you think it’s going to be when it starts. It’s a pretty good opener for the eventual action star career of Lorenzo Lamas, and the movie obviously struck a nerve with audiences because they wouldn’t have made two more with Lamas (Gary Daniels also apparently starred in a kind of spin-of sequel in 1997 called Hawk’s Vengeance, but since it isn’t called Snake Eater 4: Hawk’s Vengeance and doesn’t feature Lorenzo Lamas at all, I’m not going to count it as part of the Snake Eater franchise). I liked Snake Eater. It’s worth checking out for historical reasons.

So see Snake Eater. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 10

Explosions: Several.

Nudity?: Yes. Briefly.

Doobage: Pay phone hooey, a police stakeout, boredom, potential sexual harassment, stripping, almost sex, a floor full of spikes, a drop down shotgun, a super hidden wire, people on a boat, a screwdriver, a killer fish, talk of eating pig meat, talk of Detroit, ketchup squirting, kidnapping, bondage, face likely shoved into pot of boiling water, boat burning, biker bar hooey, a necklace made of human teeth, a full pitcher of beer, beer pouring, beer bottle across the head, body slamming, table smashing, testicle grabbing, biker beating, nasty fish, serious motorcycle riding, a public marina brawl, motorcycle attack, hair washing, attempted masturbation, shovel to the back, a jet ski accident, a burned up hat, snake torture, wood weapons making, a bear weapon, spring spike trap to the chest, attempted sleeping bag bondage torture, attempted rape, serious hand slicing, inadvertent heart stabbing, exploding boat, off screen gun finding, gun repairing, face shaving via sharp knife, bear trap, animal skull jammed into the back, a brief shootout, dead body dragging, off screen head crushing, cigarette smoking, a condom.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: A pay phone, a lack of lunch, “Chromehead kills cars” graffiti on the walls, Larry Csonka eating his lunch, a Marine with the nickname “Soldier,” Lorenzo Lamas singing Kum Ba Yah, Lorenzo Lamas throwing playing cards because he’s bored, Lorenzo Lamas talking about masturbation, Lorenzo Lamas wearing a snake belt buckle, Lorenzo Lamas’ giant penis of screen, a floor full of spikes booby-trap, Larry Csonka yelling at Lorenzo Lamas, a guy named Junior, a gross as hell belch, Lorenzo Lamas riding a motorcycle, Lorenzo Lamas getting thrown off a motorcycle, Lorenzo Lamas hanging out at a biker restaurant, a beat cop named Murphy, Lorenzo Lamas riding his motorcycle to Tennessee, creepy picture licking, Lorenzo Lamas watching a woman rub lotion on her leg and chest, the occasional “Canadian accent,” evil hillbillies talking about which one of them ejaculated into his pants, off screen turning a Harley into a jet ski, Lorenzo Lamas making homemade bombs, sleeping bag bondage torture, Lorenzo Lamas wearing a “Snake Eater” T-shirt, an old tractor, Ron Palillo playing an arsonist, Ron Palillo smoking a cigarette, Lorenzo Lamas making a weapon out of a condom.

Best lines: “Prima donnas, Lou! I told ya they’re all prima donnas!” “I… I can’t see! I’m blind!” “Can I have a quarter for a cup of coffee?” “That’s disgusting, Lou.” “Welcome to Club Paradise. We’re all out of food, beverage, and furniture, but we have a fine selection of rodent and insect life.” “Strip, soldier.” “Ten to one he won’t take his pants off.” “So, Lou, where the hell did he hide the wire?” “What’s next, Lou? I think they’re going to consummate the drug bust. You mean they’re gonna screw? No, he’s teaching her how to make funny noises!” “Okay, asswipe, hand over the cash and I won’t blow your balls off. Although I should for screwing my girlfriend.” “Wait a minute, you guys ain’t got no drugs?” “Care for a cigar?” “You’re a fucking menace to society!” “Don’t forget about the chick on the fire escape.” “Harold, this place is giving me the creeps.” “Wow! She’s got hair and everything! Can we take her home?” “Slim! Time to go!” “I like meat in my soup.” “So this is what happens when you breed a human with a tree?” “Crybaby. Junior doesn’t like crybabies.” “Nice piece of ass.” “You must be a lot of fun in a bathtub.” “Tonight, big brother is going to meet the bear.” “They got Clyde!” “I may do it twice!” “I’m gonna kill you!” “Junior said to kill strangers.” “Missed a spot!” “What are you, some kind of pervert?”

Rating: 7.5/10.0


The Gratuitous B-Movie Column The Facebook Page!

Please check out and “like” The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which is here.

Image Credit: Media Home Entertainment

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page! Yeah!


And don’t forget to check out From the B-Movie Vault!

Issue #1: Phantasm and Phantasm II

Issue #2: Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and Phantasm IV: Oblivion

Issue #3: Phantasm: Ravager and John Dies at the End

Issue #4: Scanners

Issue #5: Scanners II: The New Order and Scanners III: The Takeover

Issue #6: Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop II

Issue #7: John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2

Issue #8: Silent Night, Deadly Night and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2

Next Issue: Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster


Check out my Widow’s Point set visit!

Read it here!


Follow me on Twitter!


Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Snake Eater

Lorenzo Lamas– Jack “Soldier” Kelly
Josie Bell– The Kid
Robert Scott– Junior
Ronnie Hawkins– King
Cheryl Jeans– Jennifer Kelly
Larry Csonka– Bronsky
Ben DiGregorio– Santucci
Mowava Pryor– Chloe
Ron Palillo– Torchy
Barry Minshell– Slim
Sandra Brown– Sissy
Bob Piedalve– Harold Kelly
Jackie Lesage– Dorothy

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by George Erschbamer
Screenplay by Michael Paseornek and John Dunning

Distributed by Moviestore Entertainment, Media Home Entertainment, and Video Treasures

Rated R for violence, language, and brief nudity.
Runtime– 94 minutes

Buy it here