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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

Snakes on a Plane David Ellis 2006

The Serpents, Sans Rainbow

After a year of ridiculous hype, the ridiculous movie that spawned it is finally available for our celebration/derision/disregard. Yes, Snakes on a Plane is just as stupid, hilarious, and proudly nonsensical as you might have hoped – it’s one of the few movies of the year that has actually delivered on its promise, however preposterous that promise may have been to begin with. I guess when you shoot for the basement, you pretty much just have to fall down the stairs to be crowned a winner.

That’s not to say that they couldn’t have royally screwed up S.O.A.P. – because this being Hollywood, virtually every project is one coke-fueled production meeting away from becoming the next Pulse. In fact, by all accounts it seems like the initial version of Snakes that was filmed was likely this very kind of studio-tempered disaster – to imagine what is essentially an 80-minute orgy of snake-fu as a PG-13 film is akin to cutting porno for kids. By cutting out the very selling point of the thing, you render it absolutely useless to everyone. I’m still not sure who had the brilliant (yet exceedingly logical) idea to go back and turn what would likely have been a disaster into the devil-may-care campfest that made it to screen, but thank god for them. Given the insane amount of hype around this film, they’ve just averted a host of in-theatre riots, appeased fanboys around the world, and made the studio a shitload of cash. Not a bad way to get into the good graces of genre lovers.

Snakes on a Plane is so deliriously cheesy and cheap that to call it a made-for-TV-movie would kind of be an insult to Tarantulas: Deadly Cargo and Killer Bees. A fun blending of the Nature Run Amok and In-Flight Terror subgenres, Snakes plucks the best elements of both (cockpit drama, bitchy passengers, “somebody needs to land the plane!”; puss-filled wounds, mass hysteria, late-night rousings of preeminent zoologists) and tosses in a bit of Miami Vice-lite witness protection intrigue for good measure. The movie begins and ends with beach montages, which is a bit odd considering that the film is about an airplane, but kind of makes sense when we’re told that said flight is from Honolulu to Los Angeles (although I seriously turned to my companion during the opening credits – which slide from beach shots to dirtbike stunt driving with all the narrative grace of a Mountain Dew commercial – and said, “are we in the theatre?”).

Poor Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips, the hottie from Wolf Creek – looking a bit sun-worn and overly made-up here, albeit still cute), the motorcrosser from the opening, witnesses a bloody mob hit and is immediately almost taken out by members of the Eddie Kim gang. Luckily, Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) has somehow learned that Sean witnessed the murder and whisks him to the safety of police custody in a hilariously hambone hotel-room shootout scene. From here we move to the airport – and if you’re like me and love airplane movies, you’ll be thrilled to be out of the leafy wilds of Hawaii and into the sterile, claustrophobia-inducing halls and compartments of the travel industry.

Right off the bat, we’re introduced to our flight crew, which features a few working girls, a sexually aggressive co-pilot, and even a token “air Mary” (or at least, it seems to – more on that later). In the tradition of clichéd cop movies, Claire (Juliana Margulies) is on her “last day on the job” and just wants it to be an easy one; however, somewhat NOT in the tradition of clichéd cop movies, she’s not a cop – she’s a stewardess. Already I’m delighted at how the conventions of our various thriller subgenres are being appropriated, customized, retro-fitted, and inflated to bursting. Next we introduce the passengers, who range from general stereotype (the fat woman in the muumuu with too much makeup; the kids flying alone for the first time) to outright celebrity parody (Rachel Blanchard plays a blonde bimbo with a tiny purse-dog name Mary-Kate, who throws herself at Flex Alexander’s germophobe rap star). This is all well and good, only because you know that these fuckers are going to be snake-bait in mere moments. Having recently seen Flightplan, I briefly entertained the idea that one of the stewardesses or other passengers might be a plant by the mob to safeguard the plan (the kickboxer, maybe?), but honestly – don’t think too hard about anything in this one, because it’s not worth it. Fill plane with snakes, add passengers, stir and enjoy.

Once the snakes start attacking, this rather slow and endearingly cheap-looking little B-movie finally kicks into gear. The fanged stowaways start attacking and they pretty much don’t stop for the rest of the movie, giving us dozens of hilarious attacks and a pretty hefty body count to enjoy. The clichés come along at a decent clip (the noble stewardess ventures back into the snake-ridden coach cabin to save the missing baby – which would be hot even if she weren’t Lin Shaye from 2001 Maniacs and There’s Something About Mary; the inevitable “is there anyone on board who can fly a plane?”), and there are so many delicious face-bitings (not to mention cock-bitings, tit-bitings, eye-bitings) in between that it’s pretty hard to get bored with the “story”.

Given the amount of reshooting that went on with this beast, it’s actually pretty amazing how well the movie holds together. Sure, there are tons of shots of random, heretofore unseen passengers being brutally mauled by snakes, but that’s not that big of a deal. There are also a lot of aggressive close-ups, which of course scream “reshoot!” and generally contain some added profanity or blood or what-have-you. In fact, the film’s most popular line, “I’m getting sick and tired of all these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane” – aside from being a rather uninspired piece of dialogue – makes absolutely no sense in the context of the scene where they so unceremoniously jammed it. It’s a quiet moment, and everyone’s talking calmly, and all of a sudden Jackson starts screaming like he’s off his meds or something – it’s actually rather alarming. But even with these blatant tinkerings, Snakes still doesn’t feel half as patched-together as the Frankenstein’s BM that was Cursed, which easily takes the cake for most incongruous and horribly-spliced major release of the decade.

So really, since Snakes makes no attempt whatsoever to overcome its B-movie trappings and actually seems quite happy to wallow in its own ridiculousness, it’s very hard to get angry at it. The only thing that kind of bothered me afterward was the handling of the film’s gay character, which ends up not even being gay. Yes, the gay-seeming steward who spends the movie clapping and looking wide-eyed and offering to suck the venom out of fat men’s asses ends up being a total hetero, which is kind of a dated joke and a bit of a fuck-you to anyone who actually enjoyed the fact that a gay character was somewhat heroic, helpful, sensitive, and alive by the last reel. Also, why are the stewardesses shocked that he’s hugging his girlfriend at the end? Have they never had a conversation with the man before on their 5-hour flights? The filmmakers seem to be patting the homophobes in the audience on the head here, saying, “it’s alright to have liked that character that you thought was a fag – he’s straight after all! Now get back to defacing pictures of Lance Bass”. Which is funny, considering that the audience I saw the film with was almost entirely black couples and gay men – and this wasn’t in Chelsea, either. Come to think of it, given Hawaii’s welcoming attitude toward gays (it even recognized gay marriages for a few years in the nineties, way ahead of the curve), shouldn’t there have been at least one homo on this flight? Please say it’s Nathan Phillips.

Anyway, overall this isn’t high art (Snakes on a Grecian Urn?), but it’s certainly worth your ten bucks. Thanks to the fact that it actually delivers on its title (yes, Gothika, I’m talking to you – wait, who are you, anyway?!), Snakes on a Plan is fangy, frothy fun. First Red Eye, now this – what’s next, Flight of the Living Dead? Bring it, motherfuckers.

Rating (out of 5):