Last week was spiders, this week we celebrate that other great scary creature – snakes! I know I got some negative feedback from scaring people with the spider pictures – sorry Dylan, you big pansy – and that’s unlikely to change this week, especially because my girlfriend is frankly terrified of snakes, so sorry about that honey, but it is October, after all.I’ve got no problem with snakes, but then again I’ve never actually encountered one that isn’t trapped in a perspex box, apart from the one an obnoxious twat was parading round a shopping centre near me recently, deliberately trying to scare people and using the snake as a clear replacement for the lack of any other reason people would have to notice or talk to him. But it would seem they show up an awful lot in films. This is probably because, similarly to spiders, they have completely the wrong number of legs for any normal animal, yet still manage to function effectively. How much fear do you think you’d strike into the heart of small children without any limbs? Not a great deal, probably, but that’s because you’d probably have an awful lot of trouble moving around unaided, whereas snakes get along just fine. It’s impressive, really.So, the obvious answer everyone’s shouting is Snakes On A Plane, to which I say yes, it’s a great film, but no, it’s not on the list, because of the same reason I ignored Eight Legged Freaks and Arachnophobia last week – it’s just lousy with snakes. There’s too many for any to stand out, so they all suffer because of it. And as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t quite bring myself to include Monty Python, nor did I allow Lt. ‘Cobra’ Cobretti on, mainly because I haven’t seen Cobra. And I was tempted to include Mark Wahlberg’s appendage in Boogie Nights, but decided against it at the last minute. There is one questionable not-really-a-snake inclusion, but there’s no way he could be omitted. Anyway, enough preamble, here’s the list:
I’m quite proud of myself. I could have very easily shoehorned Toy Story onto another list, but I opted against it. There’s a funny little plastic snake in the film – he’s often seen with the toy robot in Andy’s bedroom – who could have justifiably been on here, but I said no. That film gets on enough lists, it’s time for The Nightmare Before Christmas to shine. This snake isn’t in the film too much, but the idea of a giant snake eating a Christmas tree, and all its presents, is great. Plus, I love this film, and don’t mention that enough.
10. Viper, Kung Fu Panda
I freaking love Kung Fu Panda. Love it. And I absolutely did not intend to, but it completely won me over with its laugh-out-loud comedy, great cast, and the fact that it looks positively stunning. It’s just beautiful. Anyway, Viper. Voiced by Lucy Liu, she’s a little underused throughout the film, in a similar way to David Cross’ Crane and Jackie Chan’s Monkey (basically, Angelina Jolie and Seth Rogen get the better supporting roles as Tigress and Mantis), but all of their presences are felt during the combat scenes. She’s even more sidelined in Kung Fu Panda 2, so that barely gets a mention, despite being still a very good animated film, if only for casting Victor Garber, Dennis Haysbert, Jean Claude Van Damme and Gary Oldman as, respectively, a rhino, an ox, a crocodile and a peacock.
9. Jafar, Aladdin
At the end of Aladdin, it would seem all is lost. The nefarious Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) has control of the lamp, and has used his second wish to turn himself into the world’s most powerful sorcerer. He uses his new found powers to unravel the flying carpet, transform Abu into a toy monkey and encase Princess Jasmine in a giant sand timer, with the descending sand threatening to drown her should Aladdin not save her in time (spoiler alert: he does). When Aladdin, who bizarrely has been as yet omitted from the sorcery, still attempts to fight Jafar, the sorcerer first launches swords and fire at the street urchin, before transforming into a giant – and I mean pretty damn huge – snake, seemingly just for the hell of it. And, in typical Jafar fashion, he goes too far without thinking it through first, as the snake form he opts for is just too damn big to get anything useful done, as he flails around and can’t get close enough to Aladdin to impart any real damage. Why he doesn’t transform himself into a slightly smaller snake, and Aladdin into a literal street rat is beyond me.
8. Freddy Kreuger, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3/Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice
The first of four (four!) simultaneous joint pairings, these two share a slot because they’re essentially the same thing – an otherworldly being who has opted for a snake’s body, topped with their grotesque face in order to terrify and/or devour someone. And damn if it doesn’t make them even more scary. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise – probably because other than the first part I’ve only seen them in a really compressed marathon I did on my own, so they all kind of blend into one – but even I have to admit the effects work is impressive for what can’t have been a very substantial budget, and Robert Englund’s Kreuger is always at least entertaining. Beetlejuice, on the other hand, is a classic, and had his snake-like incarnation had a larger role in the film it probably would have held this position alone. As it is, his snake/bannister creature is horrifying, but barely on screen for more than a few seconds.
7. Lots of snakes, Raiders of the Lost Ark/Lots of tiny snakes, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
You can’t do a list of snakes without looking at Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), although of course I doubt he’d be able to look at this list, as the man is famously terrified of snakes. From the moment he finds a snake in his escape plane at the start – it’s the pilot’s pet, Reggie – you knwo they’re going to come up again later, and Indy’s worst nightmares come true when his search for the Ark of the Covenant leads to the Well of Souls in Cairo, which just so happens to be full of snakes. The one that’s looking at him as he falls into the pit, shown above, is beautiful. We get to see the origin of his ophidiophobia in The Last Crusade, when a young Indy (River Phoenix), whilst being chased by a team of thugs through a circus train, is both confronted with an anaconda, and also becomes submerged in a crate full of tiny garter snakes. Ick.
6. Basilisk, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets/Nagini, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
I got a bit of stick from Nick last week that, on my list of spiders, I opted for a brief appearance of the rollerskating boggart in Prisoner of Azkaban instead of the almighty Aragog, whose very existence I’d almost forgotten, so to make sure this week I’ve covered both bases in the Basilisk from Chamber of Secrets and Nagini, primarily in Deathly Hallows part 2. Given the choice, I think I prefer the Basilisk, as it’s a really memorable foe for Harry and the others to take on in the second film, and it pretty much owns the last act of the film, whereas Nagini is essentially just Voldemort’s pet/occasional weapon. That being said, Nagini is a great deal more scary (perhaps due to being more realistically rendered?), and that one of her key scenes involves emerging from the dead body of an old woman (Bathilda Bagshot, played by Hazel Douglas), which, frankly, is terrifying.
5. Sir Hiss, Robin Hood/Kaa, The Jungle Book
I’m not the first to admit that almost every element in Disney’s Robin Hood has been lifted from other parts of their filmography, up to and including Sir Hiss (Terry Thomas), whose hypnotising ways are a direct rip off from Kaa in The Jungle Book, released just six years earlier in 1967. As such, Kaa should really take this spot alone, but I do love Robin Hood, and what Thomas does with the vocals, so I couldn’t bring myself to exclude him. With Kaa, though, I love the way his eyes goes blue and yellow when he’s hypnotising, but I just wish he wasn’t voiced by Sterling Holloway, because he only slightly varies the voice he uses for Winnie the Pooh, which is awfully distracting.
4. Milk Snake, Jurassic Park: The Lost World
I could have very easily had Jurassic Park on here, with the snake that slithers past the watching velociraptor’s eye, post-“Clever girl,” but that would have been a tenuous stretch even for me, but the milk snake that assists in the demise of Burke (Thomas F. Duffy) in The Lost World is worthy of a position. The snake serves as a reminder that these dinosaurs used to – and still do in this case – exist in a world amongst other animals we see every day, so perhaps the idea of bringing them back isn’t such a bad one, as who is to say we couldn’t get along just fine with them. Also, it makes for a pretty awesome and unforeseen death of a character I quite liked as, after running from the T-Rex attacking their camp, Sarah (Julianne Moore), Nick (Vince Vaughn) and Burke all hide in a cave under a waterfall. The Rex tries to sniff them out but leaves, until the milk snake slithers into Burke’s clothes. Understandably he’s a little agitated at the idea of a potentially dangerous snake under his shirt, so he starts trying
3. Snake Plissken, Escape from New York
There was absolutely no way Snake Plissken wasn’t making this list. None. He’s got to be the ultimate badass, and to this day my favourite Kurt Russell role. He almost makes up for the diabolical Big Trouble in Little China. Plissken is possibly my favourite anti-hero – a one-eyed war hero turned convicted criminal with a disdain for pretty much everything, and of course he’s the only one who can possibly retrieve the President (Donald Pleasence) when Air Force One crashes in Manhattan, which is now a walled-off prison island. I’ve not yet seen Escape from L.A. – I don’t hear good things, but the presence of Steve Buscemi and Bruce Campbell pretty much guarantee I’ll get around to it eventually.
2. Rattlesnake Jake, Rango
It’s a giant snake (actually real size, but when the protagonist is a chameleon, the snake’s pretty damn huge), voice by Bill Nighy, and with a gatling gun instead of a rattle. What’s not to love? The level of detail in the animation in this film has yet to be surpassed, and that makes for a pretty terrifying snake. Jake is the mayor’s thug, and also the head of a band of bandits, but considering his size, strength, cunning and agility he’d probably get along just fine on his own, but this way he can cause more damage and do more killing. He’s terrified of hawks, but birds are evil, so that makes sense to me.
Any snake that can eat Danny Trejo whole has to be respected, especially when they’re this goddamn huge. It may looks incredibly ropey, with dodgy dialogue, hammy acting and a frankly bizarre turn from Jon Voight, but this is a thoroughly entertaining film, despite starring Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz and Owen Wilson. Why is it so enjoyable? Well, that’s difficult to say, because the plot leaves a lot to be desired – a documentary crew heading for a tribe on the Amazon river become waylaid by a snake poacher on the hunt for a giant green anaconda (spoiler: they find it, death ensues). Whatever the reason, the snakes are awesome, mainly because they’re just giant-ass snakes.