The first snake flew through a beam of light emanating from the projection booth, making it flicker for a moment before landing somewhere in the dark. The second bounced off my shoulder into my lap — uncomfortably close to a well-buttered bag of popcorn — and then onto the cement floor.
I calmly reached down and collected it in my hand, rolling it until it was the size of a ping-pong ball. The next time the majority of the sold-out crowd recoiled in fright, I paid it forward: launching the snake several rows down onto a female theatergoer, who reacted like she had just walked through a spider web before laughing at the alarming absurdity of being pelted by a rubber reptile while watching something called "Snakes on a Plane."
Sitting in a packed Georgetown multiplex at last Thursday night's premiere, the rubber snakes flew through the air as fast as the satirical comments from the audience. This may be the first film to succeed as a prepackaged cult classic; it's "The Rocky Horror Serpent Show," where fans were lobbing lines and props at the screen during its premiere.
Internet backlash against the film has targeted this very fact, as everyone from message board trolls to pop culture deconstructionist Chuck Klosterman has labeled "Snakes" as a soulless big studio creation months after the cinema geeks had initially embraced its iconic title and Shaft-versus-snakes premise with ironic hipster arms. As soon as the mainstream was in on their joke, the bloggers bailed, refusing to buy opening weekend tickets like a bitter indie kid who just heard his favorite band on a Top 40 station.
It's their loss. Seeing "Snakes on a Plane" with an amped-up crowd was the most entertaining movie-going experience I've had in years. The film wears its absurdities like badges of horror honor — even the subtle ones, like when a menacing crime boss deems altitude-released poisonous snakes attacking pheromone-laced Hawaiian leis on a 747 as his "only option" to kill a FBI-protected witness. The kills seem lifted from a MAD Magazine parody, as serpents strike genitals, jerks and one very unlucky little dog. This film winks at you like a venom-covered Jon Voight emerging from an anaconda's gullet.
It works, but not perfectly. There are too many plot patchworks, too many performances where casting makes up for acting, and a tone that fluctuates too confusingly from "Poseidon"-lite human tragedy to "Tremors"-lite horror comedy.
It's less a film than an experience. But when over a hundred people recited Sam Jackson's infamous, profane catch-phrase-of-the-summer in unison, I thought the *%#$% roof was coming off the #$%@#$ theater.
Seeing "Snakes on a Plane" with a crowd appears essential (the empty bottles of Jim Beam on the floor of the row behind mine, however, are optional), so its predestined fate as this generation's midnight movie appears sealed.
I'll be there, with Snakes in My Pocket.
<1b>— Greg Wyshynski