Shakalaka Snakey! “Hisss”

October 5, 2011

Okay, so our next Horror Movie Month installment is Hisss. Never heard of it? That’s because it’s from India—the subcontinent that gave us such delicacies as tandoori chicken tikka and Aishwaryia Rai (I should  point out that this film features neither, so don’t get your hopes up). It’s also remarkable because it is directed by Jennifer Lynch. Who is she, you ask? Well, she’s the daughter of famed own-butt explorer David Lynch (famously of Mulholland Drive, which made no sense, but was awesome for precisely one reason). But for me, it’s remarkable because it is the first movie I’ve ever seen that features a love scene between a beautiful actress and a rubber snake. Go ahead, read that last sentence as many times as you like—it’s never going to stop being monkeynuts insane.

Hiss introduces us Western, non-snake humping folks to the legend of the nagin, which is a snake goddess, who lives happily with her snake-husband in the Indian countryside. As the legend goes, the nagin has healing properties that humans have coveted for years. Those who are foolish enough to try and take it, however, bring death and destruction down upon them, so they mainly leave the nagin alone. Seems sensible enough, right? Well, you know that’s gonna go all Pete Tong, otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie.

See, there’s a dumbass Westerner named George States (yeah, the name is about as subtle as being kicked by a ill-tempered cow), who is dying of brain cancer. But, fear not, he’s not totally incapacitated, as he points out, “I may have brain cancer, but I can still piss like a racehorse!” Well, I know how I’m opening my next staff meeting. Anyway, George’s big plan is to steal…uh capture…um, snakenap the male, which will draw the nagin to him. Since the two snakes are cuddling at the time (well, the snake version of cuddling—you have to see it, I can’t do it justice here), I’m not 100% on the logic of the plan.

Well, George brings the husband to a holding tank and waits. Meanwhile the female transforms into…well, first into a weird albino being with freaky eyes and a forked tongue—looks a bit like a Grammy’s outfit, Lady Gaga rejected—but soon becomes human in the form of Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat.

Excuse me for a moment: Sweet Jesus, is there was ever corporeal existence of a Higher Power it is Mallika Sherawat! The Monkees song makes sense to me now! I’m a believer! I couldn’t leave her if I tried!

Proof of a good and loving god…

Okay, now that that’s out of my system, let’s move on.  Nagin’s deliverance is heralded by death in the form of the miscarriage of the wife of a Kolkata cop, Vinod (played by Irrfan Khan…he’s mostly unknown to US audiences, but huge in India, which makes him about a million times more popular than George Clooney—wrap your tiny non-snake snuggling brains around that). So, Nagin wanders into town just in time for the festival of Holi. While the townsfolk are spraying each other with colored water and powder, she falls under the spell of a snake charmer and begins dancing suggestively.

(In fairness, Mallika Sherawit would be suggestive if she was clubbing a baby harp seal).

And what do you think happens when you look like Mallika Sherawat and you dance suggestively while being soaked with spraying water and slathered in colorful powder (roll that image around in your head a few times, it’ll come to you)? Yep, she attracts a couple of local scumbags who take her back to their place (hilariously festooned with Pamela anderson pin-ups) and try to rape her. Unfortunately for them, this just pisses Naghin off, and she transforms into a giagntic cobra who bites one dude to death, and then unhinges her jaw and swallows the other rapist whole (kind of how I imagine Michelle Bachman begins her Saturdays).

She also devours your soul…

This draws the attention of Vinod and his new, rookie partner Naveen. They check out the crime scene, but are duly flummoxed by one corpse with about a gallon of snake venom in him, and a blob, that, on closer inspection, looks a lot like a pooped-out rapist.

Some other crap happens, and Nagin meets up with Maya, Vinod’s wife, who happens to run a women’s shelter. She takes Nagin in and lets her crash at the shelter. Only problem is that the fat, corrupt security guard who works the night shift happens to be serially raping the wards at the shelter. Nagin walks in on him as he forces himself on a woman, and…well, you know what’s coming next: Hiss! Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!

(Side note: did anyone guess India was so rapey? I didn’t. I mean, Australia sure, but India always seemed more laid back to me. Huh. The things movies teach us).

So, Navin and Vinod go about investigating the weird crimes bedeviling the ordinarily-happy, hopeful Kolkata. Naveen is all like, “Um…these things seem weirdly connected to snakes. You notice that?” But Vinod won’t hear any of it and replies, “Shut up! You don’t know anything? You’re not grizzled and hardened like me!” Needless to say, they don’t make much headway.

At the same time, Vinod’s mother-in-law–who is so senile she thinks Vinod is a girl and her daughter is actually her son—keeps warning of the Nagin who walks among them. Vinod, however, mostly shrugs it off with a look like he’s thinking, “Okay, when are you going to cash your chips, old woman?” Fox Mulder, he is not.

Everything comes to a head when Nagin discovers her snake-husband’s prison. She frees him, and they make, sweet, sweet human/reptile love. I kid you not. The lights get all soft, and the early ‘90s R&B sax comes on the soundtrack, and the rubber snake prop wraps itself around her naked body, and…I gotta be honest here: yes, the scene is batshit crazy, but, watching it…well, I haven’t been this sexually-confused since junior high school when I bought that Nastassia Kinski poster.

Unfortunately, the afterglow of bestiality is short-lived, as George bursts in and kills husband snake, and then demands to be healed. Just then, Vinod and Naveen kick in the door and engage George in the most inept shootout ever. Naveen is killed, and Nagin kills George, and then, uh…becomes the Star Child-Snake. Or something. I’m not really sure. But she makes Maya pregnant, so, see? She’s not all venom and rapist-eating.

Jennifer Lynch exploded on the movie scene in the early ‘90s when she made Boxing Helena, a movie so bad Kim Basinger quit once she saw the script. Unfortunately, it wasn’t before she signed a contract and was later sued for so much moolah she had to hock the Georgia town she’d bought (wow, I have so many questions about that sentence, I’m not even sure where to begin). Anyway, Sherilyn Fenn stepped in for Kim, and the ensuing debacle killed both her career and Lynch’s. Now, twenty years later, Lynch is back with, uh, this. You know, take away the gimmick of featuring a beautiful actress being slowly dismembered, and Lynch doesn’t really have many directing chops. Mostly, she seems to like slow-motion shots, and since none of them feature Sherawat doing jumping jacks, they’re really not that effective.

So, that’s Hisss. Yeah, it’s that effing crazy.

(Public Service note: You should not, by any stretch of the imagination, construe this film or my review of it as impetus to capture a king cobra. It will not transform into Mallika Sherawit, no matter how much naan you feed it. All that does it make it mad, and believe you me, you do not want an angry cobra slithering around your apartment. Your cleaning lady will never come back.)

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