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Snakes in Movies
Nightwish (1989)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
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This is a low-budget sci-fi horror movie with a lot of the usual suspects - beautiful young women, a mad scientist, psychopaths, blood and gore. Most of the movie might turn out to be a dream. Or maybe not. It's hard to know if what we're watching is someone's dream or if it's happening for real. (I'm not even sure if I watched it or just dreamt that I watched it.) That's not really a bad thing in a scary movie because it allows for all kinds of crazy, like horrifying hanging human corpses that are possessed by alien monsters trying to reproduce. There are also two snake scenes and an alligator lizard drive-by that are not so crazy and don't add much to the plot, but trivia is what this site is all about.

The set-up is that college professor/scientist (Jack Starrett) is performing dream experiments in a laboratory where he wires up subjects who are lying on their backs in a vat of water then puts them to sleep and watches their dreams on some kind of video monitors. (I could never fall asleep like that.) That's the sci-fi part.
The horror part is the dreams. Unless it's all real...

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Real or not, we see the Professor's grad student assistants driving in a van towards an old haunted ranch somewhere in the southern California mountains to meet up with him. The driver of the van is a muscle-head named Dean, who is involved with one of the women, Kim (Alisha Das.) We see the van on the road passing behind an alligator lizard in the foreground that is eating some kind of bug. Insects come up later, but I think the lizard is just because they thought it looked creepy.

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The first snake sene

Dean intentionally runs over a rabbit on the road. When the others complain, he tells them: "The field is his. The highway's mine." Then we see Dean changing a tire in a vacant lot with Kim sitting in the dirt between the wheels. They're talking about the house they're traveling to when Dean grabs a tire iron and walks past Kim then smashes the head of a rattlesnake that was near her on the ground. We know it's a rattlesnake because of the rattling sound effects, and because the fake snake prop looks sort of like one. Two of the other grad students watch with stunned faces, but when Dean holds up his trophy Kim looks like she's turned on.

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The second snake scene

Back at the ranch, the professor is performing a ritual that will summon a demonic psychic entity. The test performance was a failure, so this time the professor handcuffs the four grad students' hands to some wooden beams to keep them from scaring the entity. Then he walks over to a box to get a green candle that he needs to use in the ritual. When he opens the box he is startled to see a snake inside. (We hear rattling sounds again, but the snake is not a rattler, it's a harmless gopher snake.) He makes a disappointed face and mumbles the name "Stanley" then takes the candle out and lights it to summon the demon. Afterwards we learn that Stanley is a psycho who likes to punish people who makes mistakes when we see him cut off someone's finger. Later the professor asks Stanley about the snake and Stanley tells him: "That bad snake made a mistake. It had to be punished." The professor tells him he's going to need a lot more therapy. (If Stanley thinks putting a snake in a closed box is punishment, he knows nothing about snakes. That's their happy place.)

You can watch the movie and read a better description of it over at The Silver Scream.