SEPTEMBER 26, 2012
Coming home from Fantastic Fest and watching an Asylum mockbuster on streaming video is sort of like punching yourself in the balls the morning after spending the night with Kate Beckinsale, but honestly I couldn't find anything better than Snakes On A Train. Stuck at work and having forgotten my rental DVDs in my still unpacked suitcase (I brought them to Austin for emergencies), I looked on Netflix for a solid 15 minutes before admitting defeat and hitting play on a movie that I knew to be the cheap knockoff of a movie that already felt under-budgeted.
Plus, the real Snakes sounded better on paper than it actually was in execution, something that plagues most Asylum mockbusters. I'm always hopeful - I know the budgets are pitiful, but the fact that they DON'T have to play theatrically (yet) should give them a little more leeway to be creative, and smart filmmakers would use their lack of financial support as a motive for telling better stories. But no, time after time they merely offer enough action to fill a trailer and pad the rest of the movie out with scattered nonsense and underdeveloped subplots that no one would find amusing even ironically.
For example, we're promised 100 passengers on the box art, but in reality there are only about 15, max. Two of them are smuggling drugs, and this subplot takes up enough screentime that you'd think it'd pay off - maybe they'd drug the snakes or something, or the bad guys would come along and make things worse for them, but no. The subplot is dropped, and one of the women dies without much fanfare. But their "drama" took up 10 minutes, so we're closer to being a feature film! The trio of stoners and other assorted folks don't fare much better - even the ones that survive are basically anonymous extras in terms of how much any sane viewer would care about them.
I will give the movie this much though - the snakes are on the vehicle for a better reason than "A mobster put them there to take out a witness", a concept that was dumber than even SOAP deserved. No, this time our female lead is cursed by her family over an arranged marriage that she refused to commit to, and needs to get to LA in order to find a shaman that will lift the curse. The snakes are part of the curse - she pukes a few up every now and then, and they very slowly and casually attack the other characters. Here the box art is even more ambitious; they promise 3000 snakes when we get MAYBE 10 of them, most of them no bigger/scarier than something you'd find in your yard. Near the end there's a viper or something, and then one character turns into a giant snake, which is amazing, but even for an Asylum production I was very disappointed by the small number of snakes, as well as the minimal number of crimes they commit (though one of the bigger ones eats a kid - score!).
And originally we didn't even get the giant snake eating the train (it's awesome, it just chomps its way through it like Homer eating the potato chips while in zero gravity). Apparently they sold the movie to a foreign territory with a "Snake eating the train" poster, and those buyers demanded that the scene appear in the movie. When the best part of your movie was just a way to cover your own ass from some distributors in another country, you have most likely made a bad film. The deaths are admirably gory (and the wound FX are actually solid), but there simply aren't enough of them to make up for the film's unrelenting tedium.
It also fails to utilize its best asset: the character of Frank, the train's conductor who is played by an actor who is either terrible or smarter than anyone else in the movie and simply amusing himself by being ironic (he DOES have a hipster mustache...). Either way, his awkward line readings and truly silly character (he spends a good chunk of his screentime asking the passengers if they've been in contact with their luggage the entire time?) gave the movie some life whenever he was on-screen, and it's a pity he wasn't the male lead as this movie might have been less of a chore if he was on-screen for another 30 or so of its 90 minutes.
Luckily, this is 2006, and no one even remembers Snakes On A Plane, let alone its unnecessary mockbuster. I don't have to worry about anyone else actually watching it. THIS REVIEW SERVES NO PURPOSE!
What say you?