This ‘serpent’ will bite you where it hurts (Netflix)

Yes I dare anyone to watch more than 10 minutes.

02 April 2021 | James Porteous | Clipper Media

I watched this program a couple of months ago on BBC iPlayer.

Well, perhaps it is not correct to say I watched it. I did indeed watch about 15 minutes but I felt so dizzy I sauntered to the fridge to grab a beer and I didn’t bother to pause the program.

I could not possibly do more injustice to the merry-go-round pomposity than the review in the Hollywood Reporter. The pertinent bits are below.

Trust me, you’ll thank both of us for the following spoiler alerts.

James Porteous/ Clipper Media

01 April 2021 | Daniel Fienberg | The Hollywood Reporter (original link)

The Serpent is a structural nightmare, pinballing from country to country and forward and backward in time. It isn’t incomprehensible. No, Warlow and director Tom Shankland insist on noting every shift in time and location with imagery and clattering sound effects from a retro travel destination board.

The back-and-forth structure throws any sort of character development for Sobhraj and his crew out the window (ditto any sense of how their crimes evolved) and drains Herman’s burgeoning investigative skills of any suspenseful progression.

I don’t doubt that distinguishing between locations in Southeast Asian countries would be somewhat difficult if they weren’t properly introduced initially, but doing it every single time and with the same sound effect had me flinching before the end of the first hour. And that was before we got introduced to scenes in Paris with both the onscreen “PARIS” chyron and then establishing shots of both the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.

There’s a looping and overlapping aspect to many of the murders as they’re depicted here — different stages of being conned, drugged and killed — and the time jumping actually reinforces a monotony to the crimes: a lot of vomiting and smothering and body dumping tied to interchangeable beardos and longhairs.

Even if we eventually get to know some of the victims, we become bored with them and their fates first, and there’s no chance that was the intention. Here’s where a series at roughly half the length would have been an improvement. The sequences of writhing, sweaty tourists go from harrowing to Hostel-style foreign torture porn, and then lose meaning.


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