Of Snakes, Sinuses, and The Wisdom of Crowds

Friday night Jonathan and I went to see The Sinus Show’s Snakes on a Plane at the Drafthouse.

Let me explain a bit. The Sinus Show is a live lampooning of a movie. It’s inspired by Mystery Science Theater 3000, and indeed was originally called “Mister Sinus Theater” until Best Brains, the creators of the original MST3K, set their lawyers on “kill”. As a long-time fan of the original, I’d been quite eager to check out Austin’s take on the concept, but had never gotten the chance until Jonathan organized a Guys’ Night Out for Friday. In spite of the 6 people who RSVPed in the affirmative (and the 72,000 or so that were invited but didn’t respond), Jonathan and I ended up being the only two guys in attendance. So we settled into the dark confines of the Alamo Drafthouse , Austin’s movie-lovers’ movie theater, and wondered if the Sinus guys could possible live up to their inspiration.

The answer in short: definitely. I actually found the Sinus show funnier than MST3K tends to be. Part of that was simply good comedy — the guys doing the commentary were excellent, and pretty consistently funny even when just improvising. Much of the difference, however, was due to a different set of restrictions they put on themselves. They were, of course, quite a bit more vulgar than the MST3K guys ever allowed themselves to be, which gave them a broader palette with which to work. A more subtle difference, however, was that the MST3K guys always tried to maintain the illusion that they were seeing the movie for the first time; the Sinus lads made no such pretensions, and were therefore better able to mock continuity goofs, establish bad patterns, etc. As Jonathan said, the MST3K writers seem more clever, pulling esoteric references from all over the place, but the Sinus guys get a lot of mileage out of fart jokes.

And in case you’re wondering: Snakes on a Plane is a bad movie. Really, really bad. Gut-wrenchingly bad. This isn’t interesting or surprising in and of itself, but becomes more so when one recognizes that this film, more than any other to date, was created by fans on the Internet. The scriptwriters incorporated a good deal of feedback from fans, and even went so far as scheduling an additional 5 days of shooting to incorporate the new material (which would incidentally bring the film’s rating from PG-13 to R). While James Surowiecki may maintain that groups are smarter than individuals when it comes to game shows, we can consider this conclusive proof that the same does not hold true where scriptwriting is concerned.