The concept of camp is like the concept of cool, those who deliberately try to become it often simply aren’t. When it comes to the former, the true trashy camp classics (with the exception of John Waters resume) almost always start out as serious legit films and end up being appreciated for how widely they missed the mark – even if they are endlessly entertaining. The likes of Showgirls, Con Air and Anaconda are examples of films so atrocious they actually become a great deal of fun.
“Snakes on a Plane” however is all too secure in its inherently silly concept, and ultimately sabotages itself by being far too self-aware. The concept is ripe with possibility, the title dredging up all sorts of imaginative scenarios for mayhem, hilarity and chills. Very little though are exploited thanks to a pure cable movie of the week script which delivers a no frills and somewhat ridiculous setup to get us on the flight, then simply falls into over the top hysterics.
The snakes themselves, delivered mostly with CG, look and act cartoonish – leaping great distances and always going for either the eyes, the nipples, the groin or the other sensitive areas that will cause maximum audience squeals. So hyper active that it removes any believability, the snakes vicious attacks end up more gross than either funny or scary. The added few seconds of R-Rated material, with its depictions of swollen tongues and bad fake blood, actually undermine the more subversive aspects of the film and its few scant moments of realism.
To be truly scared is not why people come to this film though, they want to have fun and at times it delivers. With some wise cracks, taser action and a few enjoyable snake thrashings there’s moments that audiences will go silly over and will have you cheering. Jackson is Jackson, doing his usual loud-mouthed badd ass schtick that hits all the right notes. Sadly the character never comes alive or differs from any of the others he’s done before.
He’s still better than the rest of the cast, the likes of Nathan Phillips, Bobby Cannavale and Julianna Marguiles disappearing entirely into hokum second-tier roles. Other bits like a flight steward with questionable sexuality or passengers of the purely cliched variety (annoying, spoiled, rap artist, etc.). Ellis keeps the film moving along at a fast pace and actually comes up with some creative ways to shoot and light certain scenes.
Still, he never milks the serious tension that comes with the concept – always going for the obvious and vulgar than the creative or suspenseful. His other films, “Final Destination 2” and “Cellular”, both showed a lot more energy, flair and twisted enjoyment than this. For what should’ve been such a wild ride of a movie, it lacks both bite and fun – in fact like most flights, it’s somewhat of a bore.