A lot of parents say they’d die for their children, but how many would kill for them? That’s the intriguing premise of Rattlesnake, a tense psychological thriller whose antidote is a questionable and silly final act.
Carmen Ejogo (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) stars as Katrina, a single parent ready for a fresh start. With her young daughter Clara (Apollonia Pratt) cheerfully chatting her up from her car seat, Katrina’s road trip gets derailed by a flat tire.
And since director/writer Zak Hilditch needs a little drama, Clara wanders off and gets bit by a rattlesnake. Good thing a trailer randomly pops up outta nowhere with a creepy woman offering to help…for a price to be determined later.
Naturally Katrina’s all “sure, sure I’ll sign off on whatever.” With Clara’s bite mysteriously vanished the hospital doctors just chalk her condition up to sun stroke. Soon, Katrina is visited by a weird man who says she has to kill someone to keep Clara alive by sunset. And you thought your HMO was bad?
With what little we know about her, Hilditch doesn’t view that kind of character development as important, Katrina is not a trained killer. Good thing she’s in a hospital with some folks raising their arm to knock on death’s door.
It’s at this point in the film where Hilditch finds his way with some cruel/clever twists. Katrina can’t really trust her decision making as she’s dealing with exhaustion and a lack of sleep. Is she really seeing visions of people in this sleepy town who have been murdered or gone missing? Or does she just need a nap?
Katrina opts for another potential victim in Billy (Theo Rossi, Luke Cage), a slime ball who beats and demeans his girlfriend (Emma Greenwell). While the sun’s slowly going down, Hilditch doesn’t really capture that ticking clock component of the story. Katrina has to go through some sensible hoops to get a gun, but keeps procrastinating in killing a guy who clearly isn’t going to be missed. It’s almost a civil service.
Ejogo sells Katrina’s weird moral dilemma better than the material, which starts to have Katrina making some frustrating decisions. Rossi tries to work with what he’s given, but Billy is such a poorly written character it doesn’t make any sense why Katrina drags out killing him to save Clara.
This culminates in a hokey final act that should have been avoided altogether. Rattlesnake didn’t need an action sequence and tossing one in feels disingenuous to the tone Hilditch established.
In the similar 2019 release, Rattlesnakes, we learn layers about the characters. The payoff isn’t perfect, but it feels inevitable to some degree. Rattlesnake coils all over before spewing out some ineffective venom.
Unless you’re a big Ejogo fan and want to see her get a long overdue featured role, it’s best to sidestep Rattlesnake.
Rating: 4.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix