Snake Outta Compton is the type of movie about which it seems safe to assume the title came WAY before a single word of the actual script was written. It’s a punny, grade-school-level concept that’s indicative of the humor within, but thanks to its relentless, all-in goofiness, the film isn’t without its meager charms.
Of course, any expectations for a movie called Snake Outta Compton should be pretty low — somewhere on the Sharktopus-to-Sharknado scale (I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is the high end) — and by that low-grade standard, it’s a modest success, in part because it feels more like a well-meaning spoof than a desperate grab for cult status.
Director Hank Braxtan does a 180 here from his previous dead-serious efforts, Chemical Peel and Unnatural, in a story that’s Training Day meets Snakes on a Plane (minus the plane) meets…Straight Outta Compton? No, that would be too easy. Actually, it’s more like House Party or Friday.
In it, a young wannabe rap group from Compton — rappers Cam (Ricky Flowers Jr.) and Beez Neez (Tarkan Dospil), DJ Pinball (Motown Maurice) and female singer Neon (Aurelia Michael) — must navigate several pitfalls threatening to derail their big audition: local gangster Alley Jaws (Eric Paul Erickson), crooked cop Denz (Joston Theney, who does a pretty good Denzel Washington impression…until you realize he never turns it off, and you’re stuck listening to “King Kong ain’t got shit on me” for 90 minutes) and, naturally, a giant man-eating snake.
It seems Pinball’s nerdy roommate Vurkel — yes, VURKEL — has somehow used a laser to make his pet snake grow at an exponential rate, because, you know, kids these days. Of course, the snake escapes and wreaks havoc around L.A., eating people and turning bite victims into serpentine zombies.
Snake Outta Compton is a throwback to the “hood horror” movies (Bones, Tales from the Hood, Hood of the Living Dead, Gangs of the Dead, Street Tales of Terror, Bloodz vs. Wolvez, etc.) that fell out of fashion around the turn of the century, mirroring the decline of “hood dramas” like Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, New Jack City, Juice, South Central and Baby Boy.
Unlike most hood horror, though, this film aims to be more of a parody — along the lines of Creepin’, or what Mutant Vampire Zombies from the ‘Hood should’ve been — so it’s built around humor rather than just recycled horror tropes placed into an inner-city setting. The jokes come fast and furious, and while they’re not as awful as the endless stream of pop culture references in the worst spoofs (i.e., anything involving Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer), most of them fall flat.
Still, thanks to the law of averages, the rapid-fire gags score once in a while — aided by the cast’s earnest, committed performances, plus a budget that feels comparable to a lower-tier SyFy creature feature and writing that, despite ample opportunity, never really devolves into cheap racial stereotypes.
Even though all five of the film’s writers are white, they generally manage to avoid cringe-worthy racial clichés in a plot with mostly black characters and a “hood” setting. Yes, the protagonists are rappers, but they’re good-natured — almost to a cartoonish degree. Antagonist Vurkel, meanwhile, cuts against type as an unabashed black nerd.
The most potentially problematic character is gun-toting thug Alley Shark, but he ends up being played by a white guy. Was this a conscious choice on the filmmakers’ part to steer clear of that well-worn black character type? Or did they just think it would be funny for a big, goofy white guy to spout lines like “Nobody disrespects my bitches but me!”? Whatever the reason, this is one of the rare instances of “whitewashing” I can get behind.
Snake Outta Compton is no gem, but in this day and age, “inoffensive” might be the biggest compliment you can give.