The Python (Amayo Uzo Philips, 2003)
[note: review originally published 1Oct2009]
In his relatively short career, which as I write this spans just six years, Amayo Uzo Phillips has become one of Nollywood’s most sought-after directors, churning out at least five films a year. I say “at least” because it’s obvious IMDB doesn’t have the whole scoop on this guy; the very film I’m reviewing, The Python, isn’t listed anywhere at IMDB. So who knows how much more this guy has done? In any case, looking at The Python makes me wonder why the guy’s so popular. I’m left with two conclusions. The first is that Phillips is kind of the Herschell Gordon Lewis of Nollywood, cranking out basement-budget insanity for crowds who just can’t look away from the silliness, or that the entire Nollywood system is one big Herschell Gordon Lewis-loving collective. This disc has a number of trailers for other Nollywood flicks on it (thanks, guys—oftentimes trailers are my favorite part of a movie), including some from the director my research has led me to believe is the single most popular director in the Nollywood industry, Simi Opeoluwa, and they’ve all got this same basement-budget feel to them. In other words, if you haven’t quite figured it out from the tone of the review thus far, The Python is absolute, unrepentant, mind-shattering crap. In case you also haven’t figured it out from the tone of this review so far, I loved every second of it.
The Python is a Christian horror flick (yes, I’m serious, bear with me here) about a rural village being terrorized by, you guessed it, a gigantic python. (We only see the beastie three times or so; I’m guessing that was the extent of the special effects budget. Which I’m estimating was $20.) When the villagers try to figure out what to do about the beast, they naturally fall into two camps. The village elders and most of the more powerful citizens consult with a local witch doctor, while a young Christian priest tries to sway the village to fighting the python with faith.
The acting is atrocious, the script is ludicrous, the direction stumbles on a fairly regular basis, the effects are laughable. To give the film its one due, the cinematography is phenomenal, but I’m guessing it would be pretty hard to wander around rural Nigeria and not be able to find awesome-looking locations every five feet. But in many ways, not just because of the Christian theme, it reminded me of a lot of those really, really bad evangelical movies that came out in the eighties and early nineties and got pretty much no theatrical distribution whatsoever (this was before the days of Kirk Cameron and Left Behind). But, you know, it’s Nigerian. The English delivery is like seeing live-action renditions of the stuff on engrish.com (Nigeria has, from what I’ve read, some nineteen thousand documented languages; English is not one of them); I understand that the movers and shakers in the industry chose to do films in English to get across the obvious language barriers of a country with that many languages, but couldn’t someone have paid a native English speaker a few bucks to tweak the script? Seriously? But in a way that just adds to its charm; it’s part of a $2.3-billion-annually (per Oprah) film industry, but looks like the kind of thing you’d buy on a DVD-R out of the back of Fangoria. Yes, it’s awful, but that will not stop me from putting in a big order of Nollywood hits from one of the Internet’s cheaper Nollywood distro sites. It may be unintentional, but believe me, folks, this stuff is pure comedy gold. See it at your earliest opportunity. *