Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Snakes on a Train

Welcome back, Sporefans. I want you all to know that while I've been lax in the quantity of my bad movie reviews lately, tonight I'm making up for it in quality. I want you all to know that it was very, very hard for me to find a movie that was worse than "The Marine", but I found one. This week I'll be reviewing the venomous flop "Snakes on a Train".

Prepare for the worst. Seriously, prepare now. I'll wait.

I want to make one thing absolutely clear: Snakes on a Train has nothing to do with the 2006 movie starring Samuel L. Jackson. NOTHING! This is not a sequel, not a prequel, and is in no way associated with the Samuel Jackson movie. The only thing that this movie has in common with "Snakes on a Plane" is that there are snakes in a vehicle in a movie. That's were the similarity stops, and the crud begins.

IMDB refers to this movie as a "spoof" of Snakes on a Plane. According to the dictionary, the definition of spoof is "a mocking imitation of someone or something, usually light and good-humored; lampoon or parody".

This movie is anything but funny.

This movie has two groups of characters, and by that I mean Mexicans and Americans. The Mexican group is comprised of a shaman, his sick wife, a mutual friend, and three thugs trying to cross the border. The Mexican characters spend the movie hiding on the train trying to get into the US without being detected by the train crew.

The Americans are comprised of a couple of crew members, 3 surfers, a family of 3 in a private car, an electrical engineer, a hot middle aged woman with some brownies, 2 drug running blonde girls, an ex-Texas Ranger and a creepy looking middle-eastern drug runner. Don't worry about remembering these characters, because they really don't matter too much. Seriously, don't get attached to them.

They're snake food.

Now as we all know, if you make a movie based on another movie it has to be grander, more dramatic and deadlier than the original. Whether a direct sequel or a "spoof" the movie requires a hook to get people back into their seats. With Jurassic Park the dinosaurs keep getting bigger, smarter and more deadly. Jaws went from being a giant great white shark to a personal demon that haunted the Brody family in search of revenge. The Amityville Horror, Friday the 13th, and even Rush Hour all promise bigger and better thrills in subsequent movies.

So how does Snakes on a Train, a movie not associated with the original and with only a fraction of the budget "hook" the audience in? What innovation can writer Eric Forsberg come up with to top Samuel Jackson's "I want these mother-SPORING snakes off this mother-SPORING plane"? What could possibly be more deadly than hundreds of venomous snakes trapped on a plane driven wild by snake phermones?

How about "magic snakes"?

Yes, the snakes are a result of an ancient Mayan curse, placed on Alma (Julia Ruiz) by her family as punishment for leaving the man chosen to be her husband for Brujo (Alby Castro), who is some type of amateur shaman. The couple must make it to Los Angeles, where Brujo's uncle, an actual shaman, can turn the snakes back into... eh... something that's not a snake, and put them back in Alma's body. In the mean time, she pukes up snakes and blue jello all over the place. Mmmm.... appetizing.

These deadly snakes need not be venomous, because they're "magic" snakes. Even the non-venomous garter snake is lethal when it can magically slither inside of your body and into your heart, releasing your own "inner snakes". Its like some type of zombification, or if you want to get really specific its almost exactly like "Night of the Creeps", but without any good lines.

To quote Detective Ray Cameron, "Thrill me."

If that isn't campy enough for you, the snakes grow and change in size and coloring, becoming not only venomous, but large enough to eat a small child. This is demonstrated when one of the snakes eats a small child.

To help keep things going, Forsberg develops several sub-plots to help flesh out his characters. The Electrical engineer starts hitting on the hot middle aged chick with the brownies, the blondes carrying the drugs across the border run afoul of a corrupt ex-Texas Ranger, who in turn runs afoul of the creepy looking middle-eastern drug runner, who apparently takes offense to the ex-Ranger's ploy to get sex and money in exchange for letting the girls go. A drug runner with morals? My disbelief is totally shattered now!

Meanwhile, Brujo fights and defeats the 3 Mexican thugs while trying to keep all of Alma's snakes in the little jars that he keeps on his person. Apparently he wants to keep her close, even when she's turned into hundreds of snakes. How romantic!

With the help of Miguel (Giovanni Bejarano), his friend who just happens to be there, Brujo blows smoke at the two of the thugs. He stabs the last thug with his ancient ritual stone knife and throws him off the train like Indiana Jones. Eventually, the 2 living thugs escape and are "infected" with snakes.

Brujo eventually catches up with them and rips out one of the thugs hearts to retrieve one of Alma's snakes, just like Mola Ram ripped out a guy's heart in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". I guess he didn't hear Short Round screaming "Indy, cover your heart! Cover your heart!" in the backround. After that, the one remaining living thug makes his way onto the "non-Mexican" section of the train and lets loose his snakes.

Now I know what you're all thinking. "Why don't they simply stop the train and get off?". Well, in an act of incredible stupidity, Brujo sneaks across the top of the train and into the engineer's car. After knocking out the meth-smoking train jockey, Brujo disables the train by cutting a bunch of wires sticking out of a box that's not actually connected to the controls of the train. This prompts the ticket guy to get on the intercom and scream "RUNAWAY TRAIN!!!"

The movie is directed by the Mallachi Brothers, not to be confused with the Wachowskis. In fact, they really can't be confused with anyone, because other than direct this movie, they haven't done anything. Somehow they wrangled some money and some snakes to get this project out to video as quickly as possible. I guess they were counting on people not paying attention to what they were renting in the video store.

Now that we've gone over this movie's good points, lets talk about where its lacking. Specifically, the special effects department. On the plus side, Snakes on a Train used real snakes and the blue jello was thoroughly disgusting. I will give the actors credit for handling real, albeit mostly tiny and non-venomous snakes, but as the movie progresses and the snakes get bigger they are replaced by foam rubber counterparts. At one point a snake eats the little girl in the private cabin, an effect which looked like it was accomplished using a foam rubber sleeping bag and some ketchup.

This isn't to say that Snakes on a Train didn't have any computer graphics. In fact, computer graphics were used heavily in the closing sequence of the movie. Unfortunately it appears that the only computer the producers had access to was an ancient Apple 2 GS, which as I recall came with both the standard 5.25 inch floppy and the dynamic new 3.5 inch diskette. I think it really speaks about the quality of a movie when all your animation has to be programmed in BASIC.

10: Goto train.
20: Eat train.
30: Goto 10.

To further add to the ridiculousness of the ending, either Forsberg or the mysterious Mallachi brothers decided that it would be awesome if Alma turned into a giant snake and ate the entire train. Que up the bad cgi and and get ready for a big ol' continuity error, as the interior POV shot from the train makes it look like the survivors have to choose between a 30 foot fall and being eaten by a giant snake, while the long shot reveals that the actors only need to fall about 5 feet. Add in the possibility of a sequel by showing some bite marks on the back of blonde drug runner A's calf and roll credits.

Error code 101: plot not found.

If I could some up this movie in one line, it would probably be "I hate Snakes on a Train, Jock. I hate 'em!". OK, so technically its two lines, but how often do I get to parody Indiana Jones.

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