It was a heady day in 2008 when, after many years of enjoying exploitation movies “normal” people might cross the street to avoid having to even acknowledge, that I realised once and for all that relying on the opinions of others to determine my viewing pleasure was a mistake. SNAKES ON A PLANE got mostly terrible reviews from everyone with an opinion to give, and yet when I eventually caught up with the movie all it proved to me was that they still don’t seem to be teaching the history of exploitation movies in film critic college. Far from the cynical, manipulative, edited and then re-edited utter waste of time I had been led to believe, SNAKES ON A PLANE is a glorious example of the type of film Roger Corman used to make and the Italians used to rip off with equal gusto. In fact so strong is the Corman influence I actually thought we were in the Philippines rather than Hawaii at the beginning.
The ludicrous plot involves the efforts of FBI agent Samuel L Jackson to protect key witness Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) in a federal prosecution case against crime boss Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). Unfortunately Eddie loads the plane carrying Sean and Sam back to LA with more kinds of venomous snake than could feasibly be smuggled onto an ocean liner let alone a Jumbo Jet. Cunningly disguised as pizzas and caused to run riot by the massive doses of mad snake pheromones that the passengers’ flowery lei neckwear has been doused in, it’s not long before a naughty couple are having sex in the biggest aeroplane toilet ever only for them to become the first victims in what becomes utter chaos on board. Samuel gets mad and has to defend a cast including Julianna Margulies as the stewardess-who’s-actually-leaving-to-go-to-law-school, Rachel Blanchard who was Robert Webb’s American girlfriend in PEEPSHOW, and co-pilot David Koechner who dies horribly in this and went on to die horribly in FINAL DESTINATION 5 and PIRANHA 3DD (a film where everyone concerned in its production deserved to die horribly as is discussed elsewhere on this site).
There’s lots of knockabout snakey fun, including a guest appearance from a massive anaconda that will have you marvelling at the crime syndicate’s smuggling skills (how did they fit that one inside a pizza box?) before Troy (Kenan Thompson) has to land the plane with his PlayStation skills.
SNAKES ON A PLANE is hugely enjoyable. I’ve seen it at least three times now and it does its job of being a feelgood ridiculous fun when-animals-attack exploitation picture extremely well. If the fact that once director David Ellis got the all clear to make a more ‘adult-oriented’ picture he took his film back to the cutting room to add a lot more gore and nudity doesn’t endear you to the whole cobbled together cheesy grindhouse feel of this picture you’re better off not watching it. And if I’m making the film-making approach sound a bit callous, that’s not what comes across on screen. Rather this is the kind of ludicrous, over the top, nonsensical, laugh out loud feel good horror picture you just don’t see very often. It deserved its success and I’d certainly watch a sequel, as long as it had Samuel L Jackson getting very annoyed by another type of made up venomous creature under extremely silly circumstances.