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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rattlesnake is a 2019 horror movie in which a woman must murder someone as payment to the spirit that rescued her daughter from a deadly snakebite. One of the lead characters is a domestic abuser and is shown pushing, shoving, and berating his partner, and then later shown forcing her to stand in the living room holding stacks of encyclopedias in her hands. The woman who is abused is shown in a bar with a busted lip. The snakebite is graphically shown: The little girl's skin turns purple as she screams and cries. Other violence includes attempted suicide, a knife to the throat, and gunshots. Horror movie imagery includes a ghost of a priest burning, the rotting corpse of a photographer, and a young boy ghost who bangs his head into the passenger side window of the lead character's car until his forehead bleeds. Some drinking and vaping are visible, and there's some profanity, including "f--k" used a few times.
What's the story?
In RATTLESNAKE, Katrina (Carmen Ejogo) is en route from Phoenix to Oklahoma with her young daughter, Clara, when her car gets a flat tire somewhere in an especially isolated part of rural Texas. While Katrina puts on the spare, Clara goes off to play and gets bitten by a rattlesnake. With her little girl dying, Katrina's only hope is to seek help from a nearby trailer. Inside the trailer, a mysterious woman seems to cure Clara's snakebite, and points Katrina in the direction of the nearest town. While Clara recuperates in the town hospital, Katrina is approached by an unknown man who tells her that she has seven hours to pay back the debt she owes for having her daughter's life saved, and that is to provide "a soul for a soul." Once the man proves that this request is not a sick joke, Katrina looks around the small town where she's staying. She's visited by several disturbing ghosts, and while conducting internet research on those who have been murdered in the area, she sees not only these ghosts, but also the man who visited her in the hospital, and also the woman who saved Clara's life. Now Katrina realizes that the only way to rescue her daughter is to murder someone. While mulling this over in a dive bar, she encounters a man (Theo Rossi) who is physically and verbally abusive to his partner, and must find a way to track him down, buy a gun, and kill him before time is up.
Is it any good?
This is a decent, if ultimately stock, horror/suspense movie. Ultimately, Rattlesnake comes off as a not-quite-successful attempt to pair an old Twilight Zone episode with Crime and Punishment. The concept is interesting enough -- a woman must kill someone as payment to the spirit that saved her young daughter's life -- but the execution falls short. Carmen Ejogo turns in an adequate performance as the woman who must find someone to murder, but there's a lingering sense that she wasn't as pushed to the brink as she might have been, that the exaggeration in the story and drama was misplaced. Instead of the lead character at the end of her rope, we're presented with stock horror/suspense imagery (burning priest, kid banging his head against car window) that comes off as gratuitous.
The movie does have its moments. As the black market gun dealer who sells Katrina the gun she needs to satisfy the spirit demands for "a soul for a soul," David Yow (legendary lead vocalist of The Jesus Lizard) comes off as an unsettling mix of quietly deranged and potentially violent. The chemistry between Ejogo and Theo Rossi -- the abusive man Katrina has selected to kill -- in their conflicts is there, even as the conflict itself ultimately feels trite and unsatisfying. Be that as it may, the result and overall impression of Rattlesnake is that it's a moderately entertaining if ultimately forgettable Netflix offering.
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