Snakes On My Brain

"I've had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" That about sums it up for me. I seem to be one of few people who isn’t looking forward to seeing Snakes on a Plane, the internet-fuelled, so-bad-it’s-good film that isn’t coming out for another month. The hype has been building for over a year, but has increased to a deafening roar in the past few months.

The concept is, as the title bluntly states, about snakes. On a plane. Of course that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, which appears more about indulging in a schlock fest of a film than caring about the plot. This is, of course, a fine endeavor – who doesn’t enjoy a painfully bad movie every once and awhile?

What has annoyed me is how excitement (and thereby attendance) about SOAP is turning into a pop culture must. Sites like Defamer and Cinematical, among others, have added to the hype, Entertainment Weekly runs continual updates, an indie-centric soundtrack is being released and you can even buy a $170 gold pendant modeled after the film’s snake-circled plane logo. It’s like a hipster pile on – I haven’t encountered so much peer pressure since high school. It may have started as a fan joke, but it is now in the realm of blockbuster marketing.

Which leads me to the real problem: how can you deliberately manufacture a bad film? Bad films happen by accident. Low budgets, wooden acting, paper-thin scripts can all doom a flick, but how many writers/directors/producers start out thinking “Man, this is gonna SUCK!” But that’s exactly why people are planning to see SOAP – they expect it to stink.

When I first saw Johnny Mnemonic in a theatre, people walked out. Keanu Reeves gave the most stilted delivery since Captain Kirk, making it laugh out loud funny. I always tell people it’s the best comedy I’ve seen. Of course it wasn’t supposed to be. It’s now a prime example of the so-bad-it’s-good genre, the kind of bad that is earned, not bestowed in advance. SOAP is being given cult film status before anyone has seen it screened, with people expected to show up with rubber snakes at the screenings like some sort of 21st century Rocky Horror Picture Show. Pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman calls it “reverse irony.”

You can tell the marketing has gotten out of hand now that the studio is going to keep the film under wraps from critics. This is the usual method for hiding a terrible film before word of mouth kills it. But word of mouth already is that the film is terrible, that being the whole point. Are they just trying to convince the target audience?

My hope is that this is all just a colossal joke on the movie studio – a huge prank to see what hoops web geeks can get focus group obsessed filmmakers and youth targeting marketing departments to jump through. With any luck, the theatres will all be empty on the opening weekend and all the “fans” will be at home laughing. Now that would be cool.

7 comments:

  1. Now I am going to advance the most unlikely of theories here prefaced with the words "what if."

    What if the reason that the studio doesn't want the critics to see the movie isn't because it is so bad that it will get panned, but that it isn't bad enough to elicit the kind of blisteringly great bad reviews they are looking for.

    And what if instead of being the super-schlockfest it is being made out to be, it is actually a GOOD movie, and all this word of mouth advertising would then be tanked.

    Yeah, and I am Samuel L. Jackson.

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  2. Sam Jackson is the black Christopher Walken.

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  3. But he ain't Shaft... no sirree bob.

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  4. So perhaps they accidentally made a good movie? Now that would be irony.

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  5. With the rewrites... perhaps it turned out to be a decent thriller a la Die Hard or something. Stranger things have happened.

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  6. And the critics generally seem to like the movie for what it is so far... hmmm... interesting isn't it.

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  7. Maybe the movie can't be seen as a stand-alone entity, but as the final act of a whole phenomenon. It appears watching the film is just part of the whole experience. People are going to see the film, no matter how much the ensuing hype has annoyed me.

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