Snake Outta Compton
A rap group on the verge of signing their first record deal is the city's only hope in a battle with a giant mutating snake monster.
October 23rd, 2018
Ashley Scott Meyers
Ricky Flowers, Jr.
Snake Outta Compton.
What would you anticipate as far as a screening experience – going into a darkened theatre – knowing that this was what you were to see?
It’s exactly what you’d expect… and it’s a ridiculous but entertaining film.
With call-outs to Straight Outta Compton (of course), Training Day, Snakes on a Plane and with a tone of wacky chaos from the likes of the Sharknado franchise, Snake Outta Compton is a real treat.
Up and coming rap group, with members Cam (Ricky Flowers, Jr.), Pinball (Motown Maurice), Neon (Aurelia Michael) and Beez Neez (Tarkan Dospil) – have a huge opportunity in the works. Their manager R.E.L (Arielle Brachfeld) has landed them an audition with a high-profile record label. The day before the audition, Pinball’s nerdy scientist roomie, Vurkel (Donte Essein) has recently done some not-so-smart experimentation on a slithering snake – turning the creature into a mutant who is continually growing into a giant monster – and it’s hungry. Will the group save Compton and kill their audition – as well as the ravenous reptile?
One of the film’s strengths is to make reference to things like Training Day and Straight Outta Compton – both of which I’ve never seen. But being semi-knowledgeable about things in the zeitgeist, I could recognize what properties were being parodied – and from my perspective, it’s all on the nose.
I am always pleased to see the cast in a film like this (over-the-top, goofy, ridiculous) “get it” – i.e. they understand that this is not Shakespeare or Oscar-bait or high-brow cinema.
There’s nothing more irritating than seeing an actor in something like this who doesn’t quite fit in. I’ll call back to my review of Sharknado 2: The Second One – where I made note of the fact that Tara Reid stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone else in that ensemble had a clear idea of how they should play their roles in such a crazy film. Reid seemed to take it all too seriously, and in a film of that ilk – it’s a poor choice.
Stand-outs in this vast ensemble: Joston Theney as the Denzel Washington/Training Day-esque character – a crooked cop named Denz (get it?), nerdiest of the nerds Vurkel (yes, a thinly-veiled version of the Family Matters dork) – played by Donte Essein and Arielle Brachfeld as the group’s manager R.E.L. – a white girl trying desperately to get some street cred.
I also want to give a shout out to one of the film’s producers, Jon Kondelik – who appears as Denz’s protege Ethan (get it?). His naivete is played for all it’s worth – as he takes copious notes while on the beat with Denz. But nothing will tickle you more than his “buttocks” comment following an intense action sequence in a city alley – one of the film’s biggest laughs.
With a few exceptions, the humor hits its mark. In amongst all of the wacky jokes, there are some nicely placed and very timely social/political jabs – including digs on President Trump, biting commentary on homelessness and on the difficult and heart-breaking topic of Black Lives Matter.
So while handled in a very humorous way – I found it interesting that such tough subjects would be tackled in such a comical film. It sort of sets this film apart from something like the aforementioned Sharknado franchise. There’s some actual (surprising) weight beneath all of the blood-letting, snake slithering and rap battles.
But I have to ask – there’s an early sequence of a character being forced to eat dairy, all the while complaining that he’s lactose intolerant. That joke’s punchline is ultimately never delivered. And in a film with this sense of humor, some flatulence/toilet jokes would not have been out of place. Feels like a missed opportunity – especially since it wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan set-up. They took their time to play out the “oral sex” aspect in the scene, but then no “poop payoff”. Hmmmm…
The visual effects do their job. They’re never far above the quality of (again) the Sharknado films, but like the actors – the special effects and visual effects artisans understand what kind of film they’re helping to create. Of course, the effects aren’t particularly believable (nor are they intended to be – I’d wager), but in a Godzilla-esque way, they’re endearing and help to further cement the film’s overall tone.
Of note in the just plain fun category of effects – is Cam’s journey in the film’s climax. If you weren’t laughing before, you will be here. Let’s just say that Cam gets an “inside look” into what makes the snake tick. A hoot of a scene!
And I adored the “snake-mask” you’ll see later in the film. No spoilers, but it provided a nostalgic, almost Land of the Lost quality.
I’ve reviewed two of co-writer/director Hank Braxtan’s previous films (check out my reviews of Unnatural and Chemical Peel) and each one has been quite a different experience – content and style-wise. So it’s nice to see that his work is not one-note. Chemical Peel is an intimate, character-driven horror piece. Unnatural is a killer polar bear, “man vs. nature” flick, shot in Alaska. And now, a horror/comedy parodying other urban-themed dramas.
There will be audiences who won’t quite get the tone of this film. It’s not a “good” film, it’s an entertaining one – if that makes sense. Set aside logic, your film-making knowledge and potentially high expectations, and just go in to have a good time. You won’t be disappointed.
With a cast of actors who “get it”, over-the-top situations and humor – and an enjoyably quick pace, Snake Outta Compton is a fun, semi-brainless escape that does what a movie should do – it entertains.
Snake Outta Compton is scheduled for wide release, via VOD and DVD on October 23rd, 2018, distributed by LionsGate.
Writer’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, prior to screening and reviewing this film, I entered into a creative relationship with two of the producers. I had nothing to do with Snake Outta Compton, and am reviewing this as I review anything else… honestly. Any praise or complaints are based solely on my reaction to the film itself and not my relationships with the filmmakers.