Snakes On A Train Review
Written by: thegoldensimatar
Right, if you are expecting me to open this review with a parody of Sam Jackon's now famous line from Snakes on a Plane, I am sorry to disappoint. For those of you who think this is a review will be a little sarcastic and a little burning towards the film Snakes on a Train, then you are welcome to stay. Spoilers will abound and as I have already watched this film you do not need to watch it unless your curiosity is such that it demands to be quenched or that you are a glutton for possible B movie corny gone down to drain to where it is a quivering piece of cienematic crap...then go right ahead and rent this film.
Snakes on a Plane has a life of its own. The idea is so simple and ridiculous and the title even more, it was inevitable that there would be numerous online parodies from everything like Foxes on a Ferry to Cougars on a Cruise Ship. And it didn't take long for folks to grab their camcorders and rush down to their local costume store to get some suits and create their own Something on a Something. Fair game and The Asylum, the esteemed folks who brought you Hillside Cannibals, Shapeshifter, When a Killer Calls, The Beast of Bray Road, and The Da Vinci Treasure decided to make the biggest budget film of them all. Snakes on a Train.
Now, the low budget cash in film is not uncommon, heck Roger Corman has done it many times. Corman and his Concorde (once New World) Pictures has a reputation for taking folks right out of film school or hopeful youngings and giving them a script and budget. Corman has helped launched many film careers, like Joe Dante and Martin Scorsese. His films may be low budget and some may be low budget cash ins on big studio films, but his films are entertaining though the more entertaining ones are the not so recent ones. But still they are 90 minutes of B movie fun that you can shut off your brain and enjoy the trip and come back for more. I still love watching Death Race 2000.
But that is beside the point for now. The Asylum saw potential on a low budget cash in on the much hyped, coolest actor on the planet Sam Jackon staring Snakes on a Plane with a slightly modified verison. This time the snake are on a train and they are caused by a curse.
Basically, a young girl refuses to marry a dude who her parents have arranged her to marry. Marrying him would bring wealth to them but instead she decides to run off with Brujo, who seems like a reject from Survivor. Unfortunatly for her, her folks were none to pleased with this and put a curse on her that basically makes her spit out vipers that also eat her from the inside out. Brujo decides to take her to LA where his uncle (or some sort of relative) is a shaman who can cure her. And so the pair go rushing on a train when 3,000 deadly vipers burst through her mouth and attack the 100 trapped passangers and for the next ninty....
Okay, I'll stop there. The most snakes you see on screen is maybe a dozen and the total amount of passangers is fifteen tops. The back of the box also screams and I quote: "Grotesque, Creepy, Don't Plan On Sleeping For Days!" Now, that is a marketing ploy, the film is not grotesque nor creepy. But, lets start at where the problems begin for this "B-Movie Romp" hopeful, the script. But first, let me say a few things.
The script is written by Eric Forsberg who wrote and directed Alien Abudction for Asylum. Now, I applaud him by at least doing something differnt and not copying the script for SoaP by having a mobster behind the snakes. The dialouge is so-so and pointless but some B films got so-so dialouge and are still cheesy fun. But...there is one gigantic looming problem with the script that kills any hope of fun with Snakes on a Train.
The massive snake overrun of the train does not occur till nearly seventy minutes into the film. So, for the first seventy minutes of a ninty minute movie you get the actors talking back and forth, back and forth in numerous pointless dialouge scenes that seem like an attempt to flesh out characters but do people care about many characters who are about to be food in a low budget horror film? No, we do like some development but this is overkill. There is a fight scene and some snake gore in between but between each of these feel so long that you are asleep before they even happen. It builds in some parts but instead of giving the satisfying BOO! it just drops to nothing and the film drags on.
Though, there is one interesting scene besides the massive snake munching the train and another which I will address later. Unless the villan of your film is Freddy Kruger or your a writer with a sick and twisted mind more so than David Cronenberg (and I mean that in a good way Mr. Cronenberg) children are usually safe. But not in Snakes on a Train...a wee little girl (played by Forsberg's daughter) gets eaten while in bed. That did surprise me as a bit as death of little chillin's ain't something I see every day in my horror.
Asylum then handed the script to the Mallachi Brothers as their first movie for them. I feel sympathy for the Mallachis. They have to deliver a film with lots of snakes, on a speeding train, plenty of fun to go around, and do it all on a shoe string budget. Even from a concept standpoint, doing such a movie on a budget, which for DVD movies is usually less than three million or so, is very ambitious. You have to create a film that will hopefully attract the folks who love direct to DVD films and those who want to see SoaP but want snake on a something action.
Despite my sympathy for the Mallachis and the fact blame for the horribleness of this film rests with Asylum and with Forsberg's script. I already discussed Forsberg's very underachieving script so now I turn to the Mallachis.
I will happily applaude them for starting out the movie with the snake cursed girl Alma hacks up a gob of green jello stuff laced with snakes. A pretty nice start, but from there it goes straight down. The film grinds down to an almost complete halt when it hits all the dialouge. Between dialouge scenes there are scenes between Alma and her boyfriend Brujo (who is trying some remedies which basically is him blowing smoke in her face) and several folks trying to make it across the border, who want what they view is Brujo's stash. These scenes are slightly more interesting then the dialouge as it has some action such as Brujo getting into a few brawls with the other Mexicans in the back few cars and the occasional upchuck of a snake. Even after a jar filled with snakes breaks, it is another long haul before the full on snake mayhem begins. There are a few bites before it but for me it was already too late to save it.
Hyper editing or MTV style editing, whichever you prefer, has become a favorite of directors today and some use it to such an extreme it is nauseating. There is hyper editing in Snakes, but not so much as the extreme it was in Hillside Cannibals. The camera jerks left, right, up, down, zoom in and out and it does feel confusing yet annoying at the same time. Though in a few cases the camera sticks on the action, something that did surprise me a little.
Acting...it was much better than that of Hillside Cannibals, but for a direct to DVD movie it is the same slightly below average stuff. No one really stands out in the crowd spare for Stephen A.F Day who plays the conductor. Not because he is good...but because of the ear shattering delievery of his lines just before he is eaten. He is sending out a distress call and is apparently trying to sound panicked, but instead it sounds like he is constapated and basically forcing his lines out word by word. Even in states of panic for the other characters the words come out through gasps of air as though they had just finished a marathon and are not scared to death by snakes.
Onto the snakes...I am not a snake expert but from watching the Discovery Channel I know that the snakes are not vipers. Garden snakes (or some other small green snake) and a few big boas round out the cast of serpents with stock rattler sounds and hisses added. I will not rail on them that much for this as there is precious few people and I doubt very few actors who would want to interact with vipers or other venomous snakes. But, even still the obvious rattler sounds makes it a bit ridiculous and takes any shred of suspense or terror that could have been milked from these critters.
Grant it the most obvious solution would be to make the snakes all CGI and have dozen of (though bad) CGI snakes attack the actors. But, I can only imagine the fact they didn't go this route was either the budget or time wouldn't allow it or the Mallachi Bros prefer the real deal over CGI. If that is the case, I salute them but the rattler sounds....competely ridiculous. There is also a sort of snake head puppet used in a few people eating scenes. Its an obvious fake head, but it is more believable than the CGI snakes gulping down folks in other snake movies like Python or Boa.
The makeup for the infected people consits of various warts, boils, rashes, and other such things that would make you a favorite customer at your local comsmetic store. The makeup is decent and can stand up under the light and works. But it doesn't really jump at you.
The other major make I guess you can call it is for Alma. *Big Spoiler a coming* They don't make it to LA and she becomes a snake woman. Which is her bodypainted a black-silver-grey with a pair of large vampire fangs in her mouth. I really don't know much about bodypainting but it definatly looks good and not slapped on, though the fact you can tell the vampires are obviously fake does kinda yank you out of this. And put Alma becoming a snake lady and a massive snake munching a train on the DVD box...you know what comes next.
A very obvious CGI snake munching on a CGI train. Now, I hoped this scene would be cool and really the main reason I rented the movie. To tell the truth, it has a B movie charm to it, but it failed to excite anything in me. Alma becomes snake, shoots out window while growing bigger, and then gets ahead of the train and begins to chow down. Sounds exciting, the trailer makes it look like some B movie fun...yet it failed to excite me.
Once again, music and audio. Music, it is nothing special. The usual guitar rock/metal chords plus some backup instruments provide a lot of the action music. Much of the rest of the film is bare of music as it is mostly dialouge. Whlie Brujo tries to cure Alma, there is the standard "mystical" sounding music for those scenes. Nothing special. Audio...that is the part that makes me mad. I hate with all my heart audio that is inconsistent where a dialouge scene is quiet and then the next scene is a heavy action scene and the audio is blaring through the speakers and you are scrambling for the remote for the volume. This knocks down Sound-music in my book. I loathe inconistant audio.
Overall, is Snakes on a Train a fun B movie ride in the vein of many Roger Corman classics? No. Is it a worthy rental? No. Is it a worthwhile rental? Only if you are still interested in renting it and seeing if what I say is true or you are truly insane and love crap B films. Snakes on a Train, I cannot recommend to anyone.
I can also say that Snakes has made me never to rent a film made by The Asylum again. I have been disappointed in them with the last few films of theirs I watched. I liked Beast of Bray Road and Dracula's Curse...B films that are entertaining and decent. Asylum could become a Direct-to-DVD movie giant like Roger Corman, but their films lack the luster and fun of Corman's...even his latest...movies. If they start making more original movies and less big studio cash ins and make their films more entertaining, the black spot they have given themselves could be looked upon as simply a bad phase. But, its not for me to decide.
Well, I guess that wraps it up for me everyone. This is tgs signing off.