The Seventies was perhaps the Golden Age of disaster movies. There was Earthquake. There was The Towering Inferno. There was The Poseidon Adventure. There was the seemingly never ending series of Airport movies. Nearly all of these movies featured ensemble casts of hasbeens or, if you wish to be more polite, retrocelebrities. Nearly all of them had plots so goofy that they veered well into camp. And nearly all of them had fairly high death tolls for their characters. The Seventies was also a decade with B horror movies full of, well, snakes. There were movies about people who turned into snakes (Ssss and Night of the Cobra Woman). Movies about people who controlled snakes (Snakes and Jennifer). And, inevitably, movies about snakes on the rampage (Rattlers). While the casts of these B movies were often filled with unknowns, they also featured their fair share of, um, retrocelebrities (Les Tremayne was the star of Snakes). And the plots were also so goofy that they veered into camp. And like the disaster movies, they could have some pretty big death tolls.
As a movie in which hundreds of deadly snakes are released on a plane, Snakes on a Plane is both a disaster movie and a horror movie full of snakes at the same time. Given this, it is perhaps the perfect Seventies movies, despite the fact that it was made in the Naughts. Indeed, it even features its share of retrocelebrities (Julianna Margulies of ER, Rachel Blanchard of the TV show Clueless, Todd Louiso, who may be best known from High Fidelity, and Lin Shaye, perhaps best known as the mom from Detroit Rock City). It also has one of the goofier plots to come down the pike in a while. The one thing that separates Snakes on a Plane from the disaster movies and B movies of the Seventies is that it is actually good.
Snakes on a Plane succeeds where the disaster movies failed in that it does not take itself too seriously. Director David Ellis and his writers apparently realised that they had a concept on their hands that was best played for fun. This is a film that is largely played tongue in cheek, with its fair share of over the top moments. What makes the movie even more fun is, that like any good place of camp (whether intentional, as in the Sixties Batman series, or unintentional as, well, some of those old disaster movies), the cast plays it straight. While the audience might see some humour in the situaton, it can be guaranteed that the characters don't.
Indeed, perhaps the best description of Snakes on a Plane is the way flight attendant Claire Miller (Margulies' character) describes turbulence on a plane--it is like a rollercoaster ride. Snakes on a Plane moves at a fast pace. There are plenty of frights in the film, even if one is not an ophidophobe (there is one scene in one of the plane's restrooms that I can guarantee will have the men in the audience squirming in their seats...). There is also plenty of action and suspense, as FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson playing one of his baddest heroes) must not only battle hundreds of snakes, but keep the plane in the air as well. Even the climax, which stretches the bounds of believability pretty far, is exciting. The film even has a good deal of sex appeal (I must admit that I find the blonde flight attendant Tiffany, played by Sunny Mabrey, to be a total babe).
Regardless of what others might say, I personally believe Snakes on a Plane is a great film. Indeed, it is perhaps the most fun I have had at the movies all year (even counting Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest). This is a film that delivers what it promises--a good, solid, popcorn movie full of frights and thrills. There simply aren't enough of those these days.
Of course, I am guessing some of you may be asking, "If it is so good, then why wasn't its weekend box office better (for those of you who haven't heard, it only made 15.3 million dollars)?" As you might expect, I think it simply fell victim to its own hype. For literally months now there has been a good deal of buzz on the World Wide Web about this movie. And I think that buzz may well have resulted in a backlash against the movie. Indeed, I can't really blame people if they decided not to see the film after all the hype. After all, the last time I can remember that there was this much hype about a small film was The Blair Witch Project, which was a total dud in the minds of many (including myself). Regardless, I am encouraging everyone to ignore the hype, ignore those reviews that claim this is not even a good movie, and go see this film. Believe me, you'll be thanking me on your way out of the theatre.