And so, after a long summer, it has finally come to this: Snakes on a Plane ceases to be a hot-weather fantasy and becomes a reality. Now we can all see whether this creature that became a cult before it was even finished can in any way live up (or down) to our expectations, hopes, and fears. Let us pause, then, and reflect on killer snake movies from the past.
The question as to whether Snakes on a Plane will be any good is completely irrelevant. A look back demonstrates that there has never …eally been a snake movie that is… um… well… good. Plenty that have been entertaining. But good? Anaconda is probably as good as things get. As obvious as the CGI effects are, they aren’t as bad as those in many other recent releases, and the death scenes are so ludicrous as to be highly enjoyable (such as the moment where one victim is nabbed in mid-air). Watch the home video release carefully: in one scene, the waterfall is flowing upwards. Anacondas, meanwhile, falls down on the most important front: not enough snake action.
Anaconda also begat numerous DTV imitations, all featuring one sort of improbably giant CGI snake or another: Python, Boa, Python II, Boa vs Python, and on we go, all of them just waiting for you in the remainder bin of your local video store. The effects are all pretty sketchy, and the snakes roar rather than hiss, making these more like giant monster movies than snake movies.
The other recent snake films go for quantity over size, coming real snakes with the expected cheesy FX: Silent Predators, Snake Island, Venomous, etc. Snake Island is worth catching for the ludicrous moment where a snake disco dances, and the DVD of Venomous has a quite charmingly self-deprecating commentary from director Fred Olen Ray.
Looking further back in time, there are plenty of wonderful snake oddities to find. Poor old Oliver Reed starred in not one but TWO killer snake movies. One, Spasms (1983) remains unavailable on DVD. Based on the much more sensible and very entertaining novel Death Bite, it is worth tracking down on VHS for the scene where Reed swells up and bursts. But Reed’s other snake effort, Venom (1982) is out in a gorgeous release from Blue Underground: DTS, 5.1, Oliver Reed, Sterling Hayden, Klaus Kinski, and Nicol Williamson. Now THAT’S first-rate trash.
Nor should we forget Sssssss (1973), where a bunch of real snakes are deployed along with unforgettable (for better or worse) make-up of the hapless hero slowly transforming into a king cobra. Clearly, another Shakespeare adaptation. It’s out on a bare-bones disc from Universal.
But since the movies so often scrape the bottom of the barrel, it seems only fair that some discs do too. Haunt your Wal-Mart, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find the Brentwood release of Killer Snakes. Here are four movies, only one of which is, strictly speaking, about snakes themselves (rather than people transforming). This would be Fer-de-Lance, a 1974 made-for-TV movie that is, wait for it, Snake on a Sub.
I think we’ve come full circle here.