31 Days of Terror – Snakes On A Train

by Jeff on March 16, 2010 · 0 comments

in Things I Hate

Journey back in time to 2007 with this long and rambling post about a terrible, cheaply-made Snakes On A Plane cash-in.

God bless The Asylum. When it comes to low-budget horror movies that are intentionally similar – at least in title and concept – to tentpole theatrical releases, they’re basically the best there is, which is to say that their films are never more than incompetent and unwatchable. Last year alone, they distributed When A Killer Calls, Hillside Cannibals, The Da Vinci Treasure, Pirates of Treasure Island, Snakes On A Train, and Dragon. This year we’re getting Transmorphers, The Hitchhiker, and The Apocalypse. Basically, if you want to make a crap movie that is a lot like a popular movie, The Asylum are the guys who will hook you up.

My plan with Snakes On A Train was to watch it drunk and make with a running commentary, a la my initial post on Skeleton Man. But Snakes On A Train is a movie that you need to really wrap your head around before you can really write about it. Why? Because the film is basically the story of the Nativity, except with killer snakes. And a train. Which the snakes are on.

Alma and Brujo are basically analogs for Mary and Joseph. With some slight differences. For instance, instead of riding a donkey into Bethlehem, Brujo drags Alma’s unconscious body across the border from Mexico. Luckily, they aren’t targeted by racist vigilantes, which would make for a short movie. On the other hand, where are the Minutemen?

If you didn’t already know that ‘brujo’ is Spanish for ‘male witch’, it becomes readily apparent when he starts casting crazy spells. What do the spells do? I don’t know. I’m operating under the assumption that they don’t do anything and that Brujo is really just crazy. I do know that Alma starts to throw up a bunch of harmless garden snakes, who then go and kill some random cowboy with their nonpoisonous bites. After that, Mary and Joseph get on the train. Train = Manger.

Really, what writer Eric Forsberg is doing here is challenging the accepted notions of the Christian tradition, many of which are disputed by modern-day archaeology. Snakes on a Train is a brave allegory that says to its audience, ‘Hey, maybe a manger isn’t a barn. Maybe it’s something more like…like a train.’

After giving the inevitable snake-victims some face time and introducing some danger to the Holy Family via a gang of surly undocumented stowaways, it’s finally revealed that Mary has snakes inside her because of a powerful Mexican curse. Brujoseph is not strong enough in his shamany arts to cure her, so they’re headed to the mystical center of Western civilization to find someone who can help her: Los Angeles. Little do they know that, upon arriving in LA five out of every ten people they meet will claim to be a magician, seven out of every ten people will assault them and beg to be in their movie, and only three of those seven will be wearing clothes.

The train passengers themselves are completely tangential to the movie. A pair of drug-running teen girls have a forced subplot that involves one of them getting naked, but that’s really as engrossing as it gets. They’re clearly people who are here only to die, but since this isn’t a typical slasher/dead teen movie, none of them have even the requisite wisps of development that establish why they deserve to die.

Back in the cargo car, things get heated between our heroes and the illegals whose turf they’re squatting on. Yes, illegal Mexicans = Herod. Obviously, Brujo’s a bit on edge because of his magical snake-vomiting girlfriend, so he gets a bit violent with these guys. One of the things I never realized about Mesoamerican civilization is that all shamans are superninjas, and Brujoseph dispatches most of the gang with ease, except for a slouchy, out of shape guy who looks like Dave Attell. After a protracted fight, Dave gets stabbed with a knife that appears to be made out of tin foil and packing tape, and then he’s thrown off the train. Which, you know what? No matter how bad the movie is, that’s always awesome to watch. In fact, even with the admittedly poor quality of the fight choreography, acting, and effects, it’s still satisfying to watch Brujoseph get down in the latter half of the movie, as he does awesome stuff like use magic to mess up the train’s electronics, drive the train after the conductor gets eaten by a giant snake, and remove a snake victim’s heart with psychic surgery in order to save his life. He’s like Doctor Strange, except with an obvious fake knife and a less flashy wardrobe.

Now, Mary keeps throwing up more snakes, getting larger and larger. They get out into the train and start killing people. Nearly every death is completely unrewarding, but just like with the awesome of Brujoseph, there’s a hidden gem here: one of the characters has a wound on his forearm that a snake leaps inside of. Does it make sense? Absolutely not. But you’re watching Snakes on a Train. The inevitable climax is that the train doesn’t get to L.A. in time. Mary turns into a giant CGI snake roughly the size of the train itself. Yes. Snake Jesus.

Snake Jesus starts eating the train, until one of the illegals, in true deus ex machina fashion, reveals that he’s a powerful shaman, and magics SJ away. Of course, all of the survivors are stranded in the desert, but them’s the breaks.

If you like bad movies, and you have a bunch of friends over, this is the exact kind of film you want to watch. It’s easy to make fun of, has a bunch of unintentional comedy, and has one or two real diamond-in-the-rough moments. And it’s the story of Christmas, to boot.

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