Snakes on a Train DVD Review
Written by Eric “The Hitman” Strauss
DVD released by Asylum Home Entertainment
Directed by the Mallachi Brothers
Written by Eric Forsberg
2006, Region 1 (NTSC), 91 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on June 19th, 2007
Alby Castro as Brujo
Julia Ruiz as Alma
Amelia Jackson-Gray as Crystal
Shannon Gayle as Summer
The Asylum has brought out plenty of B-movie takeoffs on bigger-budget films, some good, some bad and some in-between.
So it should come as no surprise that just days before the highly-anticipated Samuel L. Jackson schlock-action flick Snakes on a Plane hit theaters with fangs bared, the Asylum came out with … Snakes on a Train.
If you just smacked your forehead in disbelief at the title, better put on a helmet before you see the movie.
Snakes on a Train is off the tracks almost from Jump Street. For all of its the anticipatory hype, “SoaP” was a B-movie concept with an A-movie cast and budget. And it flopped — it was box-office king for one measly weekend, and a month later had yet to turn a profit.
So who’s going to see a B-movie concept with a Z-movie cast and budget?
It would be one thing if Snakes on a Train were at least entertaining. But from the unsubtitled Spanish opening scenes to the howlingly bad CGI conclusion, “SoaT” rumbles inevitably down the tracks past Mediocrity Station and straight on to Boredom City.
Say this for the actors: They’re trying. In fact, Philo Beddoe, as the corrupt vice cop Hoover, plays his debut role with a wolfish glee that actually fits the part perfectly.
He’s got some material to work with, too, as Amelia Jackson-Gray shows a little range — and a little flesh — as the drug smuggler he busts. And Reza Riazi, playing a character with absolutely no character (he gets nailed with a few ethnic slurs, but is he IA? a dealer?), seems plenty enthusiastic about beating the crap out of the dirty cop.
And leads Alby Castro and Julia Ruiz are decent (given that half their dialogue is untranslated) as illegal immigrants Brujo and Alma, whose plight sets everything in motion.
See, Alma’s under a curse that’s causing her insides to turn into snakes, which are rapidly working their way outside. And since they’ve got to get to Los Angeles, where a relative can cure her, they sneak onto a westbound train out of Texas…
…Where she vomits up teeny-weeny snakes they grow into big, bad snakes a la Alien (i.e. offscreen), and start chowing down on the eight or 10 passengers on the eight- or 10-car train.
(The film’s tagline, “100 trapped passengers … 3,000 venomous vipers,” is more than a bit of an exaggeration.)
Look, Snakes on a Plane’s plot sounds just as thin and ridiculous, but SoaP manages to be exactly what it set out to be: Summer popcorn entertainment, full of screams and jump scares and bloody good special effects.
Snakes on a Train can’t even live up to that. It’s not entertaining, it’s not scary and the effects are unimpressive.
Too bad. SoaT seems like such a blatant ripoff from the title alone, I would’ve liked to see it beat the odds and actually prove worthwhile.
Instead, I say shame on the directing Mallachi Brothers, shame on writer Eric Forsberg and shame on Asylum for wasting people’s money and time by trying to steal another film’s hype.
Movie grade: D-. This Snakes on a Plane ripoff is a forgettable Z movie lacking everything that makes its inspiration great.
Video and Audio:
The anamorphic widescreen video is generally nice and crisp, though the low budget of the film shows from time to time when the image gets significantly softer. In fact, the video clarity works against the film sometimes, as it makes the computer effects more obvious.
Video grade: B+. The Asylum continues to put out quality DVDs, even if they aren’t for quality films.
Like the video, the 5.1 audio gets the job done pretty well, but has some trouble with the low quality of the original, getting tinny sometimes and hollow others. If nothing else, the surrounds do add to what little tension there is in the film.
Audio grade: B+. See previous grade.
The audio commentary features the Mallachi Brothers, director of photography Mark Atkins and production designer/actor Derek Osedach. It’s just as pointless as the film, and worse, forced me to sit through SoaT again.
Strangely enough, despite a DVD box labeled “unrated director’s version,” there’s a lot of talk about things that were cut out, including a scene that’s part of the deleted scenes package.
That scene would have introduced Jackson-Gray’s character, Crystal, and Shannon Gayle as her friend Summer, a little earlier. And since they were two of its better actors, the film might have benefited from more of them.
The other deleted scene features Atkins, a truly dreadful actor who delivers a truly dreadful monologue. He’s so bad, he managed to get cut completely out of the movie.
An eight-minute behind-the-scenes featurette basically shows how many crew members found themselves with speaking parts, including Beddoe, the Mallachi Brothers’ assistant, and Osedach.
Bloopers consist solely of several takes of one poor actor trying to say “runaway train” but mostly just yelling “runaray twain.” They are, however, funnier than anything actually in the movie.
There are trailers for SoaT; two more ripoffs, 666 The Child and Pirates of Treasure Island; and — disconcertingly — The 9/11 Commission Report.
That last trailer struck a nerve with me. A bad one. If it had a separate description, or better showed the gravity of the situation, it wouldn't bother me one bit. In fact, I'd applaud The Asylum for trying to make a serious drama. But the studio plays it like it's just another of its schlock masterpieces. And the trailer itself is just dreadful. I couldn't tell if it was a documentary or a fictional movie. In fact, it looks like a bad dramatic re-enactment from “America's Most Wanted”. And there's no excuse for those flaws. Not with something about 9/11.
I don't blame The Asylum for hyping what must be a risky movie for them. I don't blame them for taking that risk. But the studio needs to think twice about how it's presenting a film about a serious, serious subject.
Features grade: C+. There’s a decent amount here, but it’s just as unmemorable as the film itself.
Look, the Asylum does its usual fine job on the A/V and extras. But when a studio has to make up its own box-cover quote, something I’ve seen only once before, on Uwe Boll’s impressively execrable BloodRayne, that means nobody — nobody — has anything good to say about the film. That about sums it up.
Overall grade: D. Wait six months, buy Snakes on a Plane when it gets to DVD. At least you’ll get to see Sam Jackson chewing scenery.