So what we have here plotwise is some mother...well, let's just call it snakes on a train. You knew that was inevitable, folks, so suck it up. For reasons that can only be described as baffling, a woman under a Mayan curse is currently the hatching ground for a whole bunch of snakes. About a thousand if the DVD menu can be trusted.

Not that we really have any idea why this woman is cursed to be a rattler condo--all the dialogue we get for the first five and a half minutes is in Spanish. And there are no subtitles. Or closed captioning. So unless you speak Spanish, forget about having any kind of clue what's going on until about the six minute mark, and even then, you're still not going to have much of a clue.

Once you get past the psuedo-Telemundo that is the first ten minutes of "Snakes on a Train", the rest of the movie shapes up simply enough. Basically, the snake condo woman gets on the train, starts coughing up serpents like no tomorrow, all of which start roaming the train and chomping hell out of any warm body they can get their fangs on.

Oooooookay.

How exactly is this different from Snakes on a Plane? Oh, yeah...Sam Jack isn't here to spit out profanities every thirty seconds as though Tourette's Syndrome were transmittable via snake venom. And a few other differences, too, but let's face it--"Snakes on a Train" is the budget travelers' version of "Snakes on a Plane".

Not that it's necessarily bad; there's a lot of nifty fight sequences and action scenes--dig the intertrain battle just ahead of the twenty five minute mark and you'll see what I mean. And even better, the clever exchange at the fifty five minute thirty second mark where the con artist with the miserable cover manages to bilk the young drug smuggler out of a goodish load of loot and a little bit more.

And then, there's also plenty of problem--for instance, it takes us a full half-hour to find out just how our lady on the train became a snake condo in the first place. And that clever exchange? It does manage to stretch the bounds of credibility after the "cop" insists that the smuggler take off her shirt. She probably should have guessed that, at this point, he was no more a cop than the snake condo leaking vipers in the luggage compartment.

Plus, what was with that whole exchange at the forty seven minute forty six second mark? "Yes sir I'll keep my eyes open until the police come"? Where exactly will they be coming to on a speeding train? Okay, so there's some chance they're talking about the next station, but hey.

But it really doesn't matter how well Snakes on a Train was executed--it's still, when you come right down to it, a blatant and obvious knockoff, timed to coincide with the release of its imitator, and extremely similar in plot.

This whole thing is a really unnerving trend on The Asylum's part--I don't know what happened over there, but man, something went just really bad wrong. They've made it a mission to knock off every horror movie that comes out of a major studio. They're not there yet--titles like Pulse and The Descent have slipped past The Asylum's radar--but they're well on their way.

I predict that, by 2009, they will be a facility so dedicated to knockoffs that they will rival Hong Kong in terms of production. Not one movie will escape Asylumization. And I'm taking credit for the invention of the term "Asylumization".

The ending is packed to the gills with snakes, but by this point, it's really just a thoroughly mundane cap to a thoroughly mundane movie. Well, at least until the hundred-foot snake monster starts stalking the train and gets swallowed up by an enormous mystical typhoon. Then it turns into an absolute hoot. If by "an absolute hoot", of course, you mean "a series of hallucinations possibly inspired by the great spirit Tequila", then it most definitely is an absolute hoot.

The special features include audio options, a behind the scenes featurette, a blooper reel, deleted scenes, cast and crew commentary, and trailers for The 9/11 Commission Report, 666: The Child, Pirates of Treasure Island, and of course, Snakes on a Train.

All in all, I will give The Asylum some credit. This is quite possibly the best knockoff they've generated to date. But still, there's a massive problem with that sentence I just wrote--the word "knockoff". It doesn't--it can't--matter how good Snakes on a Train is...it's still just an imitation, lacking in even a basic sense of originality.

It's still just a knockoff.

Cinemark Movie Club
Evan Jacobs