I love spiders while snakes scare me shitless, but both work rather well as movie monsters.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
While holidaying in Hawaii twenty something Sean stumbles across a brutal gangland killing and unwittingly becomes the star witness in the prosecution’s case against mobster Eddie Kim, who naturally enough wants him terminated. Fortunately FBI agent Flynn, played by Samuel L. Jackson with a truckload of attitude, is on hand to protect him on the flight back to LA, but what he cannot anticipate (and probably nobody could, given that it’s a ludicrously improbable plan) is that Kim has smuggled a horde of assorted poisonous snakes on board and driven them crazy with pheromones. It’s up to Flynn and plucky stewardess Claire to keep everyone safe.
Okay, if you can ignore the ridiculous scenario and suspend any suspicions that the snakes are, in the main, animatronic, then taken at face value this is a pretty decent movie, like nothing so much as one of the old Airplane films from the 80s, but here played straight (or as straight as they can make it given the backdrop) and with the extra complication of those pesky snakes. There’s a cast of well drawn but stock characters – the rapper with his hoodies, the mile high couple, the veteran stewardess on her last flight, the martial artist, the Mr Business Man complaining about everything, the woman with a baby, the woman with a chihuahua, the two young boys on their own (there wasn’t a nun, but I can live without her). There’s the usual series of plot complications – the air conditioning going, the plane in a deep dive from which they barely pull out, passengers panicking (understandable), the pilots killed and the only stand-in somebody whose experience is limited to computer games, and so on. There are the snakes – dropping down on the couple having sex in the toilet, jumping out of the pan and attaching themselves to the cock of the guy taking a leak, slipping over the head of the angry man, biting people on the butt and everywhere else. And finally, there are the three main leads, feisty Sean and feisty Claire and, most importantly, Samuel L. Jackson playing a Samuel L. Jackson role with all the panache we have come to expect of him, the hardass with a heart of gold who takes care of everyone else, but vulnerable beneath the kevlar coating, a soft side that ultimately endears him to us, even as he spits another ‘Motherfucka!’ at whoever or whatever needs one.
This was a popcorn movie, pure and simple, a tasty concoction with action and comedy, thrills and spills, fun not in spite of the essential silliness of it all, but for that very reason.
Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
While watching this horror comedy I couldn’t help noticing similarities with My Bloody Valentine – like the lead character in that film, David Arquette’s Chris is the son of the local mine owner, left long ago in shady circumstances and returning now in the wake of his father’s death to take care of unfinished business, only the woman he loved way back when hasn’t married the local sheriff, she has become the local sheriff. The rogue mayor is plotting to sell the town out from under the feet of its people and reinvent it as a tip for toxic waste, only some of the waste has escaped into the wild and been ingested by spiders that then turn into man-eating giants. It’s up to Chris and Sheriff Samantha Parker (Kari Wuhrer) to save the people of Prosperity from this terrible menace.
This is all pretty much by the numbers. There’s the standard romance between Chris and Sam. There’s the bad guy out to make a stash through lying and cheating everybody else. There’s the mad scientist, an arachnophile who appears to have gone to the same personal grooming school as Back to the Future’s Doc Brown. There’s a precocious kid who knows better than all the adults and could save everybody if only they’d just shut up and listen. There are fire fights and quad bike races, and a siege in a shopping mall, but throughout it all the spiders never look like anything much other than CGI. The element that appealed to me most was Doug E. Doug’s turn as an alien conspiracy theorist who’s finally proved right, at least to the extent that he believes the spiders are of extra-terrestrial origin. Oh, and it also has Scarlet Johansson in a supporting role, but she doesn’t really register except for providing an electro-shock lesson to young men who come on too strong with young women.
It wasn’t a bad movie. I enjoyed it in a pass the time sort of way, though doubt I’ll watch it again any time soon. Bottom line, it lacked the balls to the walls conviction that made Snakes on a Plane such a hoot, as if the cast and crew knew that it wasn’t to be taken seriously and let that show to the viewer.
I still prefer spiders to snakes any day of the week though, and twice on a Sunday. How about the rest of you?