Everybody is trying to figure out what went wrong with “Snakes on a Plane”. But does anyone whose talking about it really care? All those reviewers who have another clever way to say they hated it – they don’t care. But I do care. I care what happens at my local cineplex. That’s where I go to enjoy myself and as a continually budding filmmaker learn, even from mistakes. And there were a lot of mistakes made with “Snakes”. And it wasn’t the title. The title is the best thing to have happened with the movie. It brought on board Sam Jackson (an actor of repute) and it garnered more attention than it would have with any other title… it was a great marketing technique because it got people to talk about it. But the public cannot live on movie titles alone. Nor as we’ve seen in recent years big name stars.
So what went wrong? Even the Head of Distribution at New Line, David Tuckerman, stated that he was “disappointed” by the box office returns, given the amount of Internet buzz for the movie
And There was a lot of internet buzz, but that’s pretty much where the buzz stayed. I have no idea how many people went to the website and got caught up in the hoopla, but the “Snakes on a Plane” experience didn’t really take advantage of the medium. They didn’t create a true on-line experience, and I’ll come back to experience again later. There were comparisons made with the internet savvy team that did the marketing for “Blair Witch”. But the “Blair Witch” website brought more than 22million hits, because of the “is it real or not” scenario. But even more so, because the website was more haunting than the film itself. Now that creates an audience waiting to happen. SOAP got how many hits? Probably just as many as they would have without the aptly named title.
How many people do you know would go see a re-release of the Schwarzzenegger film “Commando”? Very few. Those are the few that went to see SOAP. SOAP played very much like a bad 80’s action movie. I’m a fan of the so bad it’s laughable “Commando”, because you can tell they were trying to be serious with their suspense and action, and my goodness, it’s bad. The problem with SOAP is that not all the action is bad enough to be good, and not all of it is good enough to be good. It’s okay, but leaves no lasting impression. To further compare Snakes and Commando I have brought over these few clips.
This clip should be called “Columbians on a Lawn”…
or “Columbians in a Shed”…
As a side note: notice the dreadful score by academy award winning composer James Horner.
Finally, vision! I would have loved to seen this film directed by the original director Ronny Yu. He added a visual flair and sense of humor to “Freddy vs. Jason” that made it a lot of fun to watch. Why did he back out of SOAP? Okay, David Ellis isn’t the worst director on the planet, but he lacks a strong visual flair that a movie like this needs. Ellis knows how to pace an action sequence, which is why “Cellular” worked – it was one long action sequence. But the thing that makes a Cult Classic is the sense of style the Director brings to the film. An original vision. An experience no other film would be able to bring you. Sam Raimi brought it with “Evil Dead”, Peter Jackson with “Dead Alive”, even Kevin Smith with “Clerks”. SOAP has no personal vision to create an authentic experience. And that is why it could never be considered a cult classic. And this lack of vision shows througout the internet campaign – they left the marketing to the audience. So we are left with a banal experience from the studio. (There was one standee at a movie theatre I saw that I really liked with examples of how to fend off attacking snakes while onboard a plane. It was witty, something the movie was not.) Cult Classics always have a dark wit to them, Snakes has a bland sloppiness to it, albeit sometimes enjoyable, interspersed by juvenile jokes and one or two clever moments. To make my point clear, Snakes plays it safe, even with all of those additional sequences that gave it an R rating. The film has no creative juices. I hate to say it, but maybe they should have kept it a PG-13. Or maybe they should have made the film at 10million instead of the 30. They would have been forced to get a first time director who was thirsting to prove him/herself, and would have really pushed this film into exciting territory.
That is what I believe will happen with the film “Feast”. It’s a product of the HBO docu-make-a-film-series Project Greenlight. Thirsty director with a strongly personal vision making a really low budget horror film – this film is going to have the energy that the great cult horror films had! I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with Clu Gulager, actor from such films as the noir “The Killers” and the father of the director John Gulager. I’ve met John once. He seemed very proud that night (the Project Greenlight series was midway through). And why shouldn’t he have been? But then the film was delayed… and delayed… and delayed, and finally in this weeks Entertainment Weekly it was given a release date… September 22. Excellent, but why is there no internet buzz about this film? Why not create some buzz? It can be done with a clever enough strategy. Don’t studios realize that their main demographic for this film is on-line? Just putting up a trailer on youtube isn’t enough… (here it is)
And here’s what Gulager is quoted as saying, “It’s pop. I don’t think anyone wants me to say that, but I think that’s a good thing. It has a little bit of John Waters in it. We have a monster penis and things like that. You know, it’s a different approach.” Wow, crazy, I’m sold. For those of you boohooing the anatomy bit, remember, your dog has that same bit of anatomy, so why can’t a monster?! As much as I kind of enjoyed snakes on a plane, I wish it had been more about the approach of the movie being different rather than the advertising campaign. Well, we can only hope that better made films will learn something about the power of the internet, and how with a little on-line creativity you can sell the heck out of something.