Disclaimer: Film contains animal abuse

Calamity of Snakes (Ren she da zhan) is a 1983 Hong Kong/Taiwanese CAT III action horror, written and directed by Chi Chang with additional writing from Kang-Nien Li and Kuo Jung Tsai. According to Chinese superstition, there are five main “Poisons” (hazardous creatures) in the animal kingdom that bring evil, and bad luck; Snakes, scorpions, centipedes, toads, and spiders. As such, they all garner a heavy disdain and fear from the general population, usually treated with a general lack of respect and often used in this designation within the horror genre.

A developer discovers a snake pit full of thousands of deadly serpents on the construction site of a new apartment building. To avoid any construction delays, the developer brutally exterminates the snakes. Believing the problem has been solved, he allows the new tenants to move into the building. However, not all of the snakes have been killed and the many survivors and their kin are out to avenge their murdered brothers and sisters. Soon, all hell breaks loose, and the building’s new tenants come under vicious attack by a squirming army of angry and vengeful serpents.


Considered one of the nastiest exploitation films of all time, Calamity of Snakes’ original cut is a smorgasbord of animal suffering and cruelty that can be difficult to stomach at times. Containing multiple extended scenes of unfettered animal death at the hands of the cast, crew, as well as other members of the animal kingdom, the sight of snakes being stabbed with gardening equipment, smashed with rocks, burnt to a crisp, and torn asunder with bare hands are unabashedly displayed for the audience to experience.

Although the use of animal cruelty is hardly uncommon in early exploitation, this aspect of the film is undoubtedly more graphic in nature than other similar films such as Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Primitives (1978), or Red Spell Spells Red (1983). Indeed, what feels like too large a portion of the film’s 90-minute runtime is dedicated solely to displaying this gruesome display of bloody ophidian offing that certainly isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste (which is understandable).


Serpent slaughter aside, Calamity of Snakes is a quintessential encapsulation of the utter insanity that is CAT III cinema. Taking the standard monster movie premise and turning it up to eleven, the film still imbues a level of slapstick comedy, energetic cinematography, and intense wire-fu that undoubtedly elevates its enjoyment levels above other similarly themed titles in the incredibly varied self-formed genre.

Scenes kinetically flow from droll humour, high-octane action, exploitation, and—with the introduction of the prop boa constrictor—horror comedy at a breakneck pace throughout, ultimately culminating in an explosive amalgam of all the above as the film reaches its crazy conclusion—with the crew literally hurling these poor snakes at the similarly treated stars with total disregard for the safety of… well, anything really.


Despite the abundance of abuse, Calamity of Snakes is an incredibly stylish creature feature that encompasses some of the most beloved elements of CAT III cinema along with some of the worst. Yet, with an incredibly compelling story, distinct cinematography, and surprisingly competent fight choreography, these positives far outweigh the palpable negatives. Additionally, with the cruelty-free cut featured with the latest release from the sensitive souls at Unearthed Films, as well as a percentage of sales being donated to Save the Snakes, the film’s accessibility has never been so unhindered or guiltless.


Calamity of Snakes is available to purchase on Blu-ray and DVD from Unearthed Films here.


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