Originally written for eVent! [ep] magazine on 08/17/06.
Snakes on a plane.
Just that one phrase has become the basis of a cult movie even before the film has been released. With Samual L. Jackson in the lead role the movie initially caught the public's attention because it was a movie called Snakes on a Plane featuring Samuel L. Jackson. A late attempt by the studio to change the name to Pacific Air Flight 121 met with resistance from both the star and the fans of the film, if one can be a fan of a movie they've not yet seen. It's been the buzz of the blogosphere, and the world of podcasting.
So can what would normally be a C level movie starring Samuel L. Jackson an actor who works best as a co-star or in an ensemble cast (such as Pulp Fiction) than as a lead (Shaft). Is it just an inventive title that's getting blown up into a cyclone of hype for a movie that has nothing but Samuel L. Jackson and some computer generated snakes or is there something to this Snakes on a Plane? Could this be the greatest movie ever, a cult hit on par with The Rocky Horror Picture Show or simply another creature flick with a few great lines from Jackson like Deep Blue Sea?
Whether Snakes on a Plane ends up being a hit or a flop, whether it ends up being any good or just a clever title it has already breaking new ground for pre-release marketing. A few days ago my girlfriend got a telephone call from Samuel L. Jackson himself telling her to go and watch Snakes on a Plane. Okay so it wasn't a live call, but the movie's official website allows visitors to personalize a message from the actor and then have the message sent to their friends and relatives through email or via telephone. The message is hilarious; using the same sort of over the top humour that the title would seem to imply informs the entire movie.
The internet buzz was so strong that additional scenes were filmed to bring the film in line with the sort of over-the-top action that one expects from a Samuel L. Jackson creature feature. Included in the additional scenes filmed was one where Jackson said the line which had been a joke on the internet based on his previous film appearances where. The line? "I have had it with these mother@#%&ing snakes on this mother@#%&ing plane!" Based on the buzz there's also a direct to video knock-off movie that was released on DVD called Snakes on a Train timed to hit the store shelves days before the release of the real movie.
Since the success of the Blair Witch Project's viral online marketing campaign the internet has been vital these days in creating buzz more and more movie studios are going to be willing to pander to the online fans. Whether it's shooting additional scenes, or keeping a name that's caught on with fans Snakes on a Plane will be a test case on whether what works on the internet will work in a theatre.