Review by Camden Ferrell
Alabama Snake is a new documentary from director Theo Love. It’s a case that has haunted the people of Scottsboro, Alabama but may be new information for non-natives. Despite how unique this case is, this documentary feels repetitive and somewhat shallow in its exploration of the event.
Murder (or in this case attempted murder) is a crime as old as mankind, but it has never been executed quite as uniquely as the focus of this film. The documentary explores the attempted murder of Darlene Summerford by her husband, Pentecostal preacher, Glenn Summerford. What’s interesting about this case is the alleged murder weapon: a snake.
While the case is inherently fascinating, the movie doesn’t properly exhibit how exciting it is. Divided into separate chapters, they all feel too similar and can come off as repetitive at times. There were certain aspects of the case that weren’t explored well enough, and then there were moments that seemed unnecessary.
The movie features a combination of reenactments and interviews with knowledgeable individuals. The movie definitely overused the reenactments, and it made the movie feel gimmicky and slightly cheap, but it wasn’t too off-putting. When they did the interviews, that was when the documentary was at its best. It was interesting especially when the people doing the interviews had firsthand accounts of the events that happened.
The separation of the story into different chapters was an interesting narrative choice, and it had the potential to provide unique and detailed perspectives into the case. While it did examine different subjects and angles of the case, there was too much narrative overlap as well as repetition of information that didn’t make the chapters feel particularly distinguished.
The content is all present, but it’s the form and execution that are lacking in this film. Even though the information is sufficient in painting the picture of this case, it doesn’t treat its subject with the curiosity and intrigue that it deserves. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s merely underwhelming.
Its brief runtime prevents it from going too in depth into the specifics of the case, and that’s why it feels shallow at times. It will satisfy those interested in a recounting of events, but it won’t do much for viewers looking for a more contemplative examination of the events.
Alabama Snake may not live up to the originality of its subject, and it may not have the best execution, but it’s still a somewhat apt exploration of the events. It may appeal to some viewers interested in true crime or those with some background knowledge of the case.
Alabama Snake premieres on HBO and HBO Max on December 9.