Sunday, August 20, 2006

Enough is enough! I have had it with these...oh, you know the rest

I went to see "Snakes on a Plane." I'm not ashamed to say it.

I'm not a fan of horror movies in general. I'm also not a fan of the allegedly scary movies, such as the "Scream" and "Final Destination" series, that people go to just to laugh at the bad dialogue, hugely improbable plot-twists and outlandish, contrived death scenes.

I was never a part of the huge groundswell of Internet-based activity that variously promoted, hyped and ridiculed "SoaP." To be honest, I almost feel shallow for even using that acronym. I had friends tell me about its existence, oh, last fall, maybe? I thought, "Oh, that's ridiculous. I doubt I'll see it." But then I saw the preview for it before "X3" and was somewhat titilated, especially because one of my best friends hadn't heard a thing about it.

So I was going to Baltimore and saw that there was a 10 o'clock show and I knew one of my friends would be interested, so we went. We arrived a little late, missing the initial appearance of the serpentine logo and the first flash of Bad-ass Extraordinaire Samuel L. Jackson's name on the screen. What a shame.

I won't run down the plot or anything like that. I'll admit I read some reviews beforehand and knew much of what was to come. In short, it's a dreadful movie. Many patches of awful dialogue, many gruesome, contrived deaths, many plot twists that require a herculean suspense of disbelief. It's an utterly laughable movie -- David Koechner of "Anchorman" recycling his womanizing sportscaster from that film, a group of passengers that rivals "Airplane!" (itself a parody of an earlier film, "Airport") in its kitschy, cliched "diversity" -- and laugh I did. Uproariously, and more often than not at a shot of someone being bit in the face or butt or genitals. I'd like to think I have more highbrow taste than that, but the facts guffaw for themselves.

Chuck Klosterman has an article in the August issue of Esquire that looks at the phenomenolgy behind the mere existence of this film. It's a well-written piece, with plently of Klosterman's usual snarkiness, and it laments that the large, irony-driven fanbase that pushed "SoaP" to unforeseen levels of fame indicates a sad, disturbing trend in Hollywood filmmaking.

Maybe the Internet following the movie acquired is unprecedented, but a movie that is aware of and celebrates its own low quality is hardly a first. If moviegoers were supposed to hold writers, directors, actors and the rest of the filmmaking world to a higher standard, they should have done it during the 1980's during the glut of "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th" movies before the advent of "Scream" and the rest of those genre-skewering movies.

"SoaP" isn't any less mindless or purposeless than any other "horror" movie out there. As long as the average audience finds diversion or delight in bad dialogue and poorly drawn characters meeting gruesome deaths, moviemakers will continue to give them what they want. I was marginally thrilled, marginally disgusted and I laughed a hell of a lot.

To try to counter the influence of this unbelievable (in this case, used pejoratively) piece of cinema, I tuned into a classical radio station broadcast playing a Suite for Two Pianos by Rachmaninoff on my drive home. But after it was over, I found a country station playing Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" and listened with delight. Before this entry branches into my musically-schizophrenic tastes, I'll sign off.

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