Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid

October 7th, 2004 Film, Film Reviews, Personalities, Xpress

Starring; Johnny Messner, KaDee Strickland, Morris Chestnut, Matthew Marsden

Director; Dwight Little

How can you possibly make a sequel to the 1997 shocker Anaconda with your credibility intact? Although a huge hit for the studio and distributor, it’s one of those movies you’re embarrassed to admit you enjoyed and delight in making fun of even though it was serious, like Showgirls.

Realising how awful Showgirls was, the distributor started screening it at midnight screenings alongside other schlock classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Plan 9 from Outer Space. It got a new lease on life trading on it’s kitsch appeal as being among the worst movies ever made, an honour director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Esterhas probably weren’t counting on when they made it.

So how would you breathe a new lease on life if Columbia offered you the director’s chair on the sequel to one of the 90s’ most ridiculous and notorious thrillers?

If you’re smart, you’ll see where the appeal lies; something Columbia and original director Luis Llosa didn’t quite grasp first time around; you’re making a big, dumb, B-grade monster movie. The word here, children, is ‘fun’.

Luckily, it was a mission not lost on Anacondas director Dwight Little. ‘The opportunity to do a film where the script is funny and scary and you get to take a bunch of people down a river in Borneo; how do you say no to that?’ he asks on the phone from LA. ‘It’s just great fun, it’s fun to do a summer kind of movie. The dialogue and plotting were a bit of a farce but I loved the script, it was a fun, wacky popcorn movie with monkeys and waterfalls and God knows what.’

And Little isn’t the only one who thinks so. His hero — the Marlboro Man-like Bill Johnson (Messner) — seems to overdo the tough guy persona so much on several occasions it brushes close to comical.

‘Bill’s the most serious character,’ Little agrees, ‘but at times even he knows it’s kind of a fun moment. You don’t want to get too far away from reality otherwise it’s not scary, but at the same time you want people to know it’s a big snake movie.’

And ‘big’ is the operative word. This time, it’s a rare flower called the blood orchid that makes the snakes live longer and therefore grow bigger (and meaner).

The snakes are a combination of real snake footage (of 14 foot anacondas), computer compositing and animatronic puppets. They’re your worst fears looking at giant pythons in the zoo writ large. They move impossibly fast, hiss impossibly loudly and are much too bloodthirsty to exist in real life. Of course, there’s also the niggling detail that the story is set in Borneo, about 7000 km from the nearest native anaconda habitat.

But if you’re going to quibble about scientific feasibility, this is not your movie. instead, go see it if you’re more interested in seeing 40-odd foot long snakes (which must weigh hundreds of kilograms) spear themselves through the air like bullets to snatch the hapless members of a crew of travelers going upriver.

They’re on the trail for the rare flower, which they believe will have medicinal qualities that will make them and their drug company employer rich beyond any of their dreams.

The only one crazy enough to take them to their goal through the enclosing monsoon is American expat John Wayne knock-off Johnson.

The team promptly goes over a waterfall in one of the most technically impressive scenes in the film (a collection of miniatures, CGI and stunt performers) and are stranded in the territory of the gigantic keepers of the flower.

Loyalties and betrayals shift among the increasingly desperate members of the expedition as all the while we wait for an enormous reptilian head to burst from the bushes or water like a battering ram.

There are plenty of spring out of your seat scares (rather than any actual horror), plenty of laughs (not out of place), and if you take the whole thing in the spirit it’s intended, plenty of fun.

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