'Snakes' proves popular with Dartmouth audience

by Brittany Coombs | 10/30/06 6:00am

Just because a real-life concept seems a bit unappealing does not mean one should not give its prolific, culture-changing fictional reenactment a chance. A prime example of this would be the 2006 B-movie Internet hype machine "Snakes on a Plane," which made its snake-tacular Dartmouth debut in Spaulding Auditorium this Saturday to a theatre packed with no fewer than 199 screaming, cheering, hollering students.

When the lights in Spaulding initially dimmed on this night of campus-wide pre-Halloween festivity, applause swelled. People clamored. The mood became electric. Even before the projector was turned on there were broad smiles and intermittent giggles as everyone awaited what they had paid for: an escapist, low-budget "horror" flick featuring, requisitely, more gratuitous nudity, hilariously-bad CGI and body humor than one could shake a pointy snake-killing stick at. Or taser. Or fire extinguisher.

Granted, it was the weekend before All Hallow's Eve. But not even the previous day's showing of the classic "The Exorcist" in Occom Commons (which had the notable added enticements of free admission and assorted pies and cider) had attracted such a large crowd and managed to keep it there. Obviously, demonic possession is simply not nearly as scary (or fun to laugh at) as is an aircraft terrorized by dozens of "snakes on crack."

Truly, that evening in Spaulding saw the emergence of a rare breed of spirited Dartmouth solidarity. Girls in skimpy "costumes," Alpha Thetians, film students and misguided pre-ragey souls alike united as an audience delightedly free to point and heckle as the hordes of slithering pheromone-driven minions of some kind of nebulous underworld latched onto eyes, tongues and derrieres. Between all the sneaky in-theater nibbling and guzzling (of food and drink), certain reactions were rather joyously shared by all: There was, for instance, synchronized seat-jumping when heroine Claire (Julianna Margulies) dodged a snake that must have propelled itself from some kind of jack-in-a-box with the sole intention of consuming her face. There was the applause born of bearing witness to tragically comic irony when uptight Mr. Oswald (Gerard Plunkett) literally had his face eaten off. There was the breathless guilty euphoria of seeing serpents threaten infants and devour Tinkerbell-reminiscent Chihuahuas.

There was also, now and again, that special kind of collective groaning only emitted when people have empathized with gender-specific, horribly personal injury.

And, naturally, there was the communal lauding of the massively preposterous deus-ex-machina heroics of one Mr. L. Jackson. This led to the evening's highlight -- the combination of voices in deserto shouting at just the right moment, "I've had it with these motherfcking snakes on this motherfcking plane!"

Add to this already wildly successful and climatically harrowing formula some other B-movie staples -- the questionably gay man, the two innocent tots, the old lady a little too eager for self-sacrifice (who, sadly, had refused to retire only weeks prior) and, of course, the bacillophobic Diddy-esque rapper guy -- and it is clear why nearly everyone had a Saturday-night smorgasbord of base-level entertainment.

Sure -- some have loathed and will continue to loathe "Snakes" for its "cardboard" characters and "predictable" plot. But to do so, it seems, is missing the point of a film so insipidly inspired that it is pure gold. A cold, hard (if not slightly disturbing) fact: on the Internet Movie Database, the arithmetic voting mean of "Snakes on a Plane" surpasses that of the previously untouchable likes of -- seriously, get ready -- "Jaws," "Million Dollar Baby," "Gladiator," "The Wizard of Oz," "King Kong," "Ben-Hur" and both episodes of "Kill Bill" -- just to name a few.

Its voting mean remains equivalent to that "Reservoir Dogs," "A Clockwork Orange" and "Citizen Kane." And that last one is considered the best movie of all time.

Beyond engendering a breed of unique student-body spirit that only comes with watching a couple die, rather hilariously, upon entrance to the Mile-High Club, Saturday's "Snakes" screening also offered something to think about in terms of a school mascot. We do still need one, after all. And since basically all those elite, rugged, handsome stars we have come to love are portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson -- and since there was a borderline orgasmic wave of emotion following every scene with Agent Flynn, the man of undeniable cool -- it would not be too crazy to propose Mr. L. Jackson for that ballot.

Honestly. He would have a chance. He would only have to beat a moose, a bipedal metallic barrel, and an amorphous splattering of greenness. And none of those things are even poisonous. Or have fangs.