Aby-the-numbers grade-B horror pic, Jeffrey Reiner's "Serpent's Lair" might find space on busy genre shelves in vidstores or in wee-hours cable slots, but theatrical prospects look as scarce as the film's scares.

Aby-the-numbers grade-B horror pic, Jeffrey Reiner’s “Serpent’s Lair” might find space on busy genre shelves in vidstores or in wee-hours cable slots, but theatrical prospects look as scarce as the film’s scares.

Reiner, whose earlier “Blood & Concrete” held some interest, has loaned himself out as a director-for-hire this time, and result is a capable but conventional chiller of the sort that once dominated drive-in theaters. Mundane film lacks any hint of (intentional) humor that might have made for some fun.

“Serpent” stars Jeff Fahey and Heather Medway as young marrieds who move into a pretty but creepy old L.A. apartment. Before long, an oddly aggressive stray cat shows up, taking an enormous dislike to the wife and quickly tripping her down a flight of stairs.

While wife’s away (in what must be cinema’s longest hospital stay ever for a sprained wrist), another visitor arrives. Lillith (Lisa B.), the supposed sister of the apartment’s previous tenant, has come to go through her late brother’s personal belongings. Before long, this seductress (hint: Lillith and the cat are never in the room at the same time, and Lillith loves lots of milk in her coffee) is draining the life out of the young husband via unending and increasingly violent rounds of sex.

Also in the mix is a mysterious next-door neighbor (Patrick Bauchau), Alex’s watchful mother (Kathleen Noone) and a visiting archaeologist (resident Whit Stillman elitist Taylor Nichols) who knows far more about succubi than an archaeologist should.

Plot spins out of comprehension as the young but very, very tired husband-sex slave begins hallucinating Satanic visitations and other evils. Even with the requisite surprise coda, ending won’t catch anyone off guard.

Performances, like the direction, are competent though uninspired, with the exception of Lisa B. as the succubus — she’s merely uninspired. Sex scenes are standard pay-cable style, and tech credits are as unexceptional as the film’s infrequent special effects.

Serpent's Lair

Production

A Kushner-Locke Co. presentation in association with Warnervision Films. (International sales: Kushner-Locke Intl.) Produced by Vlad Paunescu. Co-producer, Harriet Brown. Directed by Jeffrey Reiner. Screenplay, Marc Rosenberg.

Crew

Camera (color), Feliks Parnell; editor, Virginia Katz; music, Vinny Golia; production design, Stuart Blatt; costume design, Merrie Lawson; sound (Ultra-Stereo), Tibi Barcoman. Reviewed at Hamptons Film Festival, Oct. 19, 1995. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Tom ... Jeff Fahey Lillith ... Lisa B. Alex ... Heather Medway Mario ... Anthony Palermo Betty ... Kathleen Noone Sam ... Patrick Bauchau Paul ... Taylor Nichols
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