Rattlesnake has a small but solid cast with Carmen Ejogo at center-stage as Katrina. Best known for her role in It Comes at Night (2017.) The premise is simple but combines a few really neat supernatural subtext to its bad luck story.
Katrina is going from A to B and what fuels the narrative is her string of missed opportunities to get herself out of numerous pickles. She attempts to shave some time off her road trip and takes a short cut around some backed up traffic. By the time her tire blows, there is no reception on her phone. Katrina is annoyed but straps on her big girl pants and makes preparations to change it. Her daughter Clara wanders out into the desert nearby. I’d like to judge her on her parenting, but I can’t. The kids’ been in the car for ages and certainly deserves to wander only meters away. Of course, her bad luck is about to become worse luck and Clara gets bitten by a rather angry rattlesnake.
The bite Clara receives is tremendous. I googled rattlesnake bite pictures and for some reason, poor old Clara’s massive holes didn’t look like any of them. So thumbs down to special effects for that detail. However, moving on. Katrina finds herself swinging her luck the other, way when a caravan appears that she hadn’t noticed before.
This is where the writer throws in the first bit of folklore. It’s this aspect of the film that I liked. This entity begins in the form of the lady in the caravan and it’s this figure that appears in the background of the rest of the movie. She controls the actions of the victims it ‘saves.’
Why Did the Lady Save Clara?
Why would the mysterious lady save Clara? If she is a soul collector it’d be to get more souls and for that, she needs a bargaining chip. Many a horror movie has done similar things. In films like Candyman, Headcount or even possession films, the concept is somewhat alike. Entities have the power to control the circumstances with either a curse or legend and the rest is mischief and trickery.
Here in Rattlesnake, it’s not really much different. Katrina must give a soul to retain the soul of Clara (Apollonia Pratt.) What did she do wrong? Nothing, this entity is an opportunist. The more Katrina learns about the history in the town she’s in, the more it’s apparent she has no choice but to believe what she is told.
Katrina wants to outsmart the game. She’s already in a hospital and figures she’ll just help a dying man on his journey by expediting the situation with a pillow. She hesitates and tries to regain her composure but his relatives enter the room and he dies without her assistance. This leaves her in another pickle. She obviously doesn’t want to kill just anyone, so hangs out in a local pub to see what she can find.
With an abusive boyfriend in her sights, she buys a gun and has time to go and practice shooting it in the desert without getting bitten by a rattlesnake. Her intended victim escapes and Katrina is left knowing she has only moments to save her daughter. She decides to kill herself to save Clara instead. The entity gives her a reprieve and a rattlesnake appears that causes him to fall off the rocks so she can kill him. Problem solved it seems. That was lucky indeed.
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Zak Hilditch, an Australian writer, and director did another of Netflix’s offerings, 1922 (2017) and did a perfectly fine film with Rattlesnake. Nothing here will blow your socks off, but as a fan of curse type narratives, I certainly didn’t mind connecting the dots and reading between the lines. It’s the lack of fear in some of the more challenging scenes that took away from the overall feel of the film. I wanted Katrina to stay on hospital grounds and perhaps up the ante with some more vigorous disguises. Instead, watching her hunt down an angry man seemed to take away from that tension. Time was of the essence, but watching her practice shooting in the final hours of the debt, lessened that sense of urgency even more.
Even so, I’d still recommend watching it if you’ve got time on your hands.
I give Rattlesnake
3 elephant-fanged rattlesnakes out of 5
Did Katrina get more than she bargained by escaping the town and leaving behind a soul for the woman? her daughter Clara drew a picture of this strange entity and has no problem seeing dead people in the form of hitchhikers. Or is that the woman in disguise moving onto the next town?
Starring: Carmen Ejogo, Apollonia Pratt, Theo Rossi, Emma Greenwell, Debrianna Mansini, Brice Davis and Rio Alexander.