After her young daughter, Clara (Apollonia Pratt), is bitten by a rattlesnake, Katrina Ridgeway (Carmen Ejogo) seeks help from a strange woman who saves her daughter’s life. She later takes her daughter to the hospital and while doctors find no evidence that she had been bitten at all, a man appears, explaining that in order to repay this healing, she must kill someone by sunset.
The question Rattlesnake ultimately asks is: ‘Would you kill to save a loved one?’, and while this premise offers a promising and exciting watch of the human psyche, the film itself falls short. Director and writer Zak Hilditch’s simple, straightforward plot, stays like that throughout, with few twists or turns to keep the viewer alert. It becomes predictable and provides no real sub-plots for viewers to care for.
Ejogo’s portrayal of a desperate, traumatised single mother trying to protect her child is one of the most redeeming qualities of the film. However, while she is watchable – and on-screen for pretty much the entire film – the film does little for her character, as barely any information is actually provided about who she is.
The film relies heavily on a tried and tested thriller style, such as the overuse of eerie music, attempting to build and savour suspense. Furthermore, the cinematography is relied on with too much emphasis; the 85 minute screen time is littered with close-ups of Ejogo’s face and, in a few select scenes, point-of-view shots revealing to the viewer only what she can see. In this sense, the film lacks any sort of refreshing or creative filmmaking, and instead falls back on methods that audiences are used to, creating a less exciting viewing experience.
While the cinematography plays into many thriller tropes, one interesting feature of Rattlesnake is the use of colour. Compared to many other films of the same genre, Rattlesnake takes place almost entirely in daylight (this is due to the time pressure of her having to kill before sunset), meaning that the film’s aesthetic is brighter – Ejogo’s character even spends the majority of the film in a yellow zip-up hoodie. This is a surprisingly effective use of colour, as it makes the idea of sunset seem even more threatening and scary. It is an impressive choice, aided by the plot’s ticking clock, and it helps to retain some tension.
However, ultimately the film still leaves a taste of purposelessness and unfulfilled potential. With Netflix releasing a new horror film every week in the run-up to Halloween, there is a great deal of choice within the genre, and many of Netflix’s other new releases have proved more worthy of viewers’ time than Rattlesnake.
Image: Movie DB