One of the earliest examples of the power of the internet pushing a movie into the spotlight, David R. Ellis’s Snakes on a Plane didn’t end up being anything special, but its viral journey can be seen in today’s creature features such as Cocaine Bear.
This film’s title was born during an after-work happy hour among Hollywood colleagues where they would see who could come up with the most awful pitch for a movie. A producer named Craig Berenson would be the one responsible for the Snakes on a Plane pitch based on a screenplay called Venom. The rest is Internet history.
The movie had star power in the form of Samuel L. Jackson, and a decent supporting cast with the likes of SNL’s Kenan Thompson, future Insidious star Lin Shaye, and Ghost Ship’s Juliana Margulies. The plot was a bit broader than the title suggested, but not by much. It does, however, absolutely deliver on the title’s simple premise. There are snakes. They are on a plane.
The reason? A witness to a mob crime is on that plane, and in order to stop them from testifying, the whole aircraft is packed with time-released snakes, and yep, they’re pretty much all deadly.
A Solid Snake on a Plane
The tone is as silly as you’d expect, with the use of the location and reptile threats used for some inventive snake kills and deaths. On the human side, there’s snake bites of all kinds inflicted. Neither nipple nor crotch is safe on this flight from the venomous bite of a slippery reptile, but even when the snake isn’t venomous, there’s some lovely crushing and swallowing going on.
On the other side, snakes get speared, splatted, electrocuted, blown out into the sky, and — most memorably — microwaved in a homage to Joe Dante’s Gremlins. The movie’s internet popularity led the studio to go back and reshoot certain parts to knock the rating up to R, and while there’s certainly plenty of slapstick violence and language, Snakes on a Plane still doesn’t feel as wild as it should.
As with many internet hype campaigns in the modern age, Snakes on a Plane was always going to struggle to live up to expectations. Now you might ask: “What expectations do you give to a movie with a title as straightforwardly stupid as Snakes on a Plane?” And the answer is wild silly carnage. By the time the movie arrived, the infamous Samuel L. Jackson line about how fed up he was with the snakes was overplayed, and the trailers had left little in the way of surprises.
Far removed from the hysteria of the moment (I happily paid cash money for tickets to see the film and I bought the Cobra Starship theme song that would annoy coworkers on lunchbreaks for weeks), Snakes on a Plane is a perfectly fine creature feature and arguably better than some recent attempts, but it will always carry the weight of what surrounded it.
Now if you don’t mind, I think I’m going to annoy my family by playing that Cobra Starship song again.