Chart a course for adventure! I couldn’t blame you for being a tad skeptical about the quality of a no-budget pirate film lensed in Ottawa, Ontario. There’s a reason that low and no-budget filmmakers tend to gravitate towards the horror genre – it generally requires less production value. Less special effects. Less effort on the whole, really. Pirate films tend to have a few necessary elements in common, and they don’t come cheap. For one, they are inevitably period pieces – that tends to be expensive – and they necessitate a high sense of adventure, sword-fighting and – of course – a pirate ship. Getting these elements on the cheap are not just a difficult proposition, it could very well be near impossible. However, while it’s often rather rough around the edges, Brett Kelly’s PIRATES: QUEST FOR SNAKE ISLAND impressively manages to pull it off.
I’ll admit to initially being a little confused about what to expect from this DVD, not only considering the obvious influence (and popularity) of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films, but also the similarity of the title to the PIRATES series of pornographic films. Yeah, I notice these sorts of things. When I discovered it was Canadian, I found my enthusiasm growing rapidly. QUEST FOR SNAKE ISLAND was directed by the prolific Brett Kelly, who has made a cottage industry out of filming fun b-movie genre pastiches. With titles like SHE-REX, or the upcoming JURASSIC SHARK, you probably have an idea what to expect. But this is something a bit outside his wheelhouse – a comedy/adventure movie with a few monsters thrown in for good measure.
Having helmed over 15 features in under a decade, Brett Kelly has proven himself to be a reliable workhorse director who knows how to get things done quick and dirty, so attempting to mount a sweeping adventure on the high seas might have been a risky proposition. He mostly succeeds by making the most of his resources – historical sites around Ottawa for the locations, some impressive costuming – and a sense of fun that can help you ignore some of the shakier accents or modern looking structures occasionally visible in the background. This ingenuity is also visible in overcoming the film’s biggest hurdle, the ship itself, which is accomplished through a combination of green-screen and some brief CG shots of the sailing ship. It’s not very convincing, but you can’t help but admire the sort of balls that would even attempt such a thing.
In our interview, Brett Kelly mentions that STAR WARS had a much bigger influence on the plot than the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise, but either way the plot won’t hold many surprises for those familiar with the genre. In fact, it serves mostly as a collection of usual pirate movie tropes and cliches, though with obvious and enjoyable winks at the audience. The appearance of some giant computer generated snakes once the group reaches the island makes for a fun pulp addition, and gives Kelly a chance to show off his obvious love for monster movies. Rather shockingly, the film also includes a rousing score with a repeated main theme that serves to adequately liven up scenes which threaten to get a little bogged down with dialogue. While it may seem like a minor touch, music is usually an after-thought in low-budget productions so it makes the whole thing seem that much more professional.
Three Nightmares out of Five
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
Join us this week for an interview with Pirates: Quest for Snake Island director Brett Kelly
- [NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES] PODCAST #80: PLAGA ZOMBIE (1997) - July 25, 2016