For the past couple of years, Hollywood
has been in a slump. In 2005, box office sales fell by 22% from the previous year, according to Exhibitor Relations, while audience levels have been dropping steadily since 2002. The recently released Da Vinci Code, which had a healthy opening, making $77 million dollars its first weekend, while Mission: Impossible 3, starring Tom Cruise, despite its disappointing first weekend, has recently passed the $100 million mark, making it the first film of 2006 to make that distinction, might change things. Still, Hollywood watchers are wondering whether other films such as Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean, the X-Men: The Last Stand, and other hot movie fare will do as well or whether Tinseltown should worry that this summer will be another big soggy disappointment.
One film which no doubt will draw plenty of box office attention is the B-grade schlock Snakes on A Plane, starring Samuel Jackson. Google the movie’s title and you’ll likely get a number of sites devoted to it alone. There’s been a huge buzz about Snakes on A Plane for months now. Even Wikipedia has an entry on the movie. Whatever can be said about the movie’s plot is right there in the title: snakes get loose on a plane and cause all sorts of havoc. Nobody who is interested in this movie will confuse it with Oscar bait: it’s a bad movie! Not as in Sam Jackson’s kind of baaaad, but really stupid bad. One of the taglines will go down in the lexicon of great corny movie quotes. But with the war in Iraq degenerating into more chaos and gas prices still rocketing higher than a Fourth of July roman candle, maybe what Americans need more of right now is some good old-fashioned shlock.
The buzz began when screenwriter Josh Friedman, whom New Line, which is releasing the movie in August, offered to do some tinkering on the script, got interested in the movie and started writing about it in his blog. The title and premise did the rest. According to Wikipedia, the general plot goes something like this: Sam Jackson plays Neville Flynn, an FBI agent who, along with his partner Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips), escorts a Mafia informant (John Houghton) on an airplane from Hawaii to California where he’ll testify in a high-profile mob case. Of course, this won’t do for the mobsters the informant is testifying against, so a hired hit-man, thanks to the easily bribable (is that a word?) airport security, releases a crate filled with 400 of the most deadly snakes to kill him. That’s a pretty convoluted way to kill someone, since a bullet to the head will do nicely. Well, that might be how Tony Soprano settles scores, but Tony Soprano ain’t got nothing on snakes!
If the snakes don’t inspire abject fear in you, the bad airport security probably will. Indeed, the movie itself sounds like a comment on our contemporary fears of air travel, terrorism, and lack of security. Despite its schlockiness, the movie is probably a lot smarter than it actually sounds. Snakes on a Plane is a throwback to the B- and Z-grade movies that were popular from the 1950s to 1970s – -you know the ones the boys on Mystery Science Theater 3000 used to go to town on. These flicks, whose existence defied all logic (as in “I can’t believe somebody actually bothered to make this”), found their place in drive-in theaters and grind houses throughout the country. Drive-in theaters went to seed and grind houses turned into consolidated multi-plexes, so the schlock fests that the then so-called independent filmmakers made disappeared too. Hollywood continued to regularly churn out bad movies, but none the likes of the gloriously insipid fare that such low-rent auteurs as Ed Wood, William B. Castle, or Roger Corman put out.
Snakes on a Plane sounds like a return to those old pictures, complete with an awareness of its utter stupidity. After the movie garnered a lot of buzz on the Internet, New Line went back and shot some more scenes after post-production. Not because they wanted to correct the script, but because they wanted it to be gory and bloody enough to earn an R-rating. They know where their audience lies: all those twenty- to fortysomethings who remembered staying up late at night, watching Plan 9 From Outer Space, or for all those Mysties out there who still turn down the lights where applicable! And besides, with Sam Jackson in it, mouthing that aforementioned soon-to-be famous quote the only way Sam Jackson can, it couldn’t be all that bad, could it?