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Snakes on a Train

>From the same folks who last year gave us "H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds" we now get "Snakes on a Train," another low-budget quickie aimed at riding the coattails of a bigger and pricier pic. Unfortunately, neither undiscriminating action fans nor connoisseurs of high camp will find much bite in this latest direct-to-video product.

Cast:
With: Alby Castro, Ryanne Ruiz, Giovanni Bejarano, Al Galvez, Amelia Jackson-Gray, Shannon Gayle, Stephen A.F. Day, Isaac Wade, Carolyn Meyer.

From the same folks who last year gave us “H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds” — the C. Thomas Howell vidpic, not the Steven Spielberg blockbuster — we now get “Snakes on a Train,” another low-budget quickie aimed at riding the coattails of a bigger and pricier pic (this time New Line’s “Snakes on a Plane” starring Samuel L. Jackson). Unfortunately, neither undiscriminating action fans nor connoisseurs of high camp will find much bite in this latest direct-to-video product from The Asylum.

Working from a brazenly absurd yet tediously unamusing script by Eric Forsberg, fraternal auteurs identified only as the Mallachi Brothers offer an unappetizing smorgasbord of stiff performances, klutzy continuity, transparently fake gore and slapdash special effects.

Worse, the first two-thirds of the vidpic is so numbingly dull that most viewers won’t even bother to hit the pause button during refrigerator raids or bathroom breaks.

An unfortunate Mexican beauty (Ryanne Ruiz) has been smacked with a Mayan curse that causes her to chronically upchuck snakes. In an attempt to find a cure, her attentive husband (Alby Castro) smuggles her across the border into Texas, where they stowaway aboard a train bound for Los Angeles.

During the journey, however, the regurgitated snakes keep getting bigger and bigger, and hungrier and hungrier.

When it comes to generating and sustaining suspense, however, the Mallachis are stunningly inept. As a result, the vidpic fails to deliver even the cheapest of cheap shocks.

The “surprise” climax — which is revealed on the DVD package art — involves a close encounter with a really, really big snake. (How big? Well, at this point, the title could be changed to “Train in a Snake.”) But the cruddy trick photography recalls nothing so much as an early-1990s video game.

Except for fleeting references to “Airplane!” and “Barfly,” and a wink-wink violation of genre conventions, “Snakes on a Train” remains a humor-free zone until the very end.

On the plus side, a nifty surfer-rock tune called “Snakes in Hawaii” plays under the closing credits which state: “Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental, and very weird. We suggest moving and/or taking a plane. No snakes were hurt during the production of this screenplay. Only a small child was, but it’s cool.”

Snakes on a Train

Direct-to-video

Production: An Asylum Home Entertainment production. Produced by David Michael Latt, Sherri Strain. Executive producer, David Rimawi. Co-producer, Rick Walker. Directed by The Mallachi Brothers. Screenplay, Eric Forsberg.

Crew: Camera (color), Mark Atkins; music, Mel Lewis; production designer, Derek Osedach; art director, Reza Riazi; set designer, Daisy Mullen; sound, Marcus Ricaud, Matt McGowin, Dennis Hamlin; special effects supervisor, Scott Harper. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, Aug. 17, 2006. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Alby Castro, Ryanne Ruiz, Giovanni Bejarano, Al Galvez, Amelia Jackson-Gray, Shannon Gayle, Stephen A.F. Day, Isaac Wade, Carolyn Meyer.

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