In 10 Words or Less
Meet a guy you'll love to hate
Loves: Patton Oswalt, Dark Comedies
Likes: Adam Goldstein, Margaret Cho
Patton Oswalt has never led me wrong. It's not that he's a good friend of mine, but any time he's positively mentioned a movie or whatever, it's been something I've really enjoyed once I checked it out. So when he took up the cause of The Snake I was sure I had to check it out. While it's not the best Oswalt-approved piece of media I've ever digested, it continues his perfect streak of having similar tastes as I do.
Many films call themselves black comedy, but few are legitimately black in their comedy. Normally they are just placing laughs between moments of violence or perversion, or at best have a plot that's a bit twisted. It's the rare film that really tries to draw laughs directly from an uncomfortable idea, and even rarer is the film that does it well. I can barely scrape together a list of quality black comedies, including Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude, Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, Todd Solondz' Happiness, Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, Michael Lehmann's Heathers and Mark Waters' The House of Yes. Most of the other films that get recognition as black comedy are more correctly viewed as quirky.
Though it certainly doesn't sit amongst the aforementioned films, Adam Goldstein and Eric Kutner's The Snake has a solid hold on the idea of black comedy. Ken (Goldstein) is a Z-grade Lothario, throwing himself at every attractive woman he sees, with "game" like few others. His aggressive method of flirting frequently annoys and repels the women it's aimed at, but once in a while, he manages to hook a fish, yet screws it up thanks to his own insecurities and psychoses. But he may have met the girl of his dreams in a cute woman with an eating disorder that forces her into group therapy. In order to win her over, he joins her group under a lie, which actually makes his efforts to woo her more difficult.
What sounds like a silly and standard rom-com plot is actually quite dark, as he has no interest in saving her from her problems, but would rather enable her bulimia, as it keeps her attainable. Thus, we have achieved black comedy. Ken is a complete loser who just wants to get laid, and an overconfident loser at that, which makes his failures hilariously uncomfortable. That's a very good thing, as he'd drive viewers away from the film in droves otherwise, as he's completely contemptuous and there is little that is redeeming about him. It's a testament to the fimmakers' abilities (they filmed a solid script with an almost documentary video style) and Goldstein's acting (as well as character design that screams creepy) that the movie can hold a viewer's interest in a character you wouldn't want to otherwise spend a minute with in real life.
What doesn't hold interest is the way the story feels a bit padded out, as Ken works his way through the support group doing favors in order to keep them off his trail of deceit. It's hard to believe that a horndog like Ken would put himself through so much trouble just to get a steady piece of tail, even if it is damaged enough to be "worthy" of him. Just having a rival for his love interest's affections inside the group probably was enough of an obstacle for him, even if the group interaction lent the film several of its biggest laughs, including one of the few moments where Ken shows any real humanity. With some healthy trimming and a bit more focus, The Snake could have been one of the greatest shorts ever. As it is, it's a well-made character study and an example of real black comedy.
A one-disc release, this DVD features a lightly animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to watch the show, select scenes and check out the extras. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.
The anamorphic-widescreen transfer looks good, delivering a sharp image without any problems with dirt, damage or digital artifacts. It looks like the digital video it was shot on, with frequently washed-out color, a high level of detail and an overall flat look.
The audio's delivered in Dolby Digital 2.0, and it's your usual standard, center-balanced track, doing little with the dialogue and music. One wouldn't expect much for audio from such a low-budget film, and those expectations will be met.
The first extra is a nearly eight-minute featurette titled "Your Movie Sucks." Goldstein and Kutner read reviews of the film on Netflix while sitting in a bar, and mark them as Helpful, Not Helpful or Inappropriate, while responding to them with bits of info about the film, covering the big points like budget and the topic of bulimia. It's great to see filmmakers respond to their critics, especially when they are funny doing it, and this piece helps to serve as something of a mini commentary.
"Casting Call" runs a touch over six minutes, showing footage from the cast search on the film, including some of the actors who were eventually cast. It's a loose and goofy collection of footage, and really shows off the filmmakers' personalities, particularly the ending, which is a funny reference to a well-known casting scene. There's an extension to the casting effort (and the guys' showcase) in the three-minute "Margaret Cho Pitch," a somewhat-successful tongue-in-cheek attempt to recruit Cho to star in the film.
There's 10 minutes of deleted scenes included, with two alternate openings, which were smartly changed, one integrated later into the film, while the other probably could have been kept somewhere. Either way, the final opening was much better.
Also on the disc is a Web link to Pathfinder Pictures' site, as well as trailers for this movie, along with other Pathfinder films.
The Bottom Line
Though it didn't rock my world the way it did Patton Oswalt's, The Snake is well worth a look for anyone into cringe-inducing comedies, mainly on the strength of Goldstein's character, as big an anti-hero as one could find on film. The DVD adds in some fun extras that illustrate mainly how much fun the guys behind the movie are, and serve to build hope they have something good up their sleeves for a follow-up. I'll certainly be looking forward to it.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.