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The downside of hype

Posted at 12:43 PM on August 21, 2006 by Euan Kerr

Is it too late to write about "Snakes on a Plane?" The ultra-hyped horror thriller took off over the weekend, and flew straight into the turbulence of nice weather in the dog days of summer, keeping audiences away.

It doesn't help that the flick is pretty good A monstrously bad film would have added to the kitsch.

I hit a matinee performance on Saturday, and was a little disappointed by the sparse crowd. How can you enjoy a cultural phenomenon when there is no culturati in sight? Luckily three young men arrived just as the lights went down and chose to sit almost directly in front of me. I have to admit I was a little cheesed at first as the place was just about empty, but decided, in the name of art and the blogosphere, I could handle it.

"Snakes" depends on a ridiculous premise which has the tensile strength of oatmeal, but man-oh-man there are some scary snakes in this film. A whole planeload of them. They may be computer generated, but they certainly get your pulse racing.

The film makers don't hold back on the flinch factor or the gore. Name a vulnerable spot on the human body and you can bet a snake will chomp on it at some point during the film.

There are many moments though where herpetologists are laughing aloud at the sheerly nonsensical snake behavior depicted in the film. There's a part with the boa constrictor that goes from horrific to laughable in seconds.

And of course there is Samuel L Jackson's immortal line about his deep-seated anger about the reptiles on his chosen mode of transport. It elicited a cheer from the young men just in front of me. But it also raises the question as to how Jackson feels about the fact that his two more memorable speeches on film, "Snakes" and the apocalyptic bible adaptation from "Pulp Fiction" are so profanity-laced they can't be quoted in polite company. Actually, he probably doesn't care.

News that the film came in top at the weekend box-office, but only grossed a measly $15 million, when some had been predicting $50 million must be a disappointment to the folks who worked so hard to hype this movie. Also to be just $1 million ahead of "Talladega Nights" must sting too. Yet in these days when the real dough in in the DVD sales, the hype really can't hurt.

August 2006
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