Directed by: Dwight Little
Starring: Johnny Messner, KaDee Strickland, Matthew Marsden, Morris Chestnut, Salli Richardson
I should start by explaining the high rating on this barely just-better-than-direct-to-video opus. It gets two stars for unintentional mirth, plus one more for a high simian quotient.
This last star may seem a little specialized, but in the case of Anacondas, it also accounts for quite the best performance in the film. That's not too surprising when you look over the cast -- see any names you recognize besides Morris Chestnut? Exactly. So I was surprised to find that I'd seen star (and first-runner-up in the Guy Pearce Lookalike Contest) Johnny Messner in two other movies, leading-lady KaDee Strickland (boasting the worst and most variable Southern accent since Laurence Olivier) in no less than six films, comic-relief Eugene Byrd in at least one, second-lead Salli Richardson in one, and so on. That I recognized none of them in Anacondas is a testament to the lack of an impression they'd previously made on me. (OK, I wasn't surprised that I'd seen villainous Matthew Marsden in Black Hawk Down, since nearly everyone seems to have been in that film and almost none of that bunch is now recognizable.) But I doubt I will forget any of them after Anacondas ... assuming they can now get future work.
Supposedly, this is a sequel to Anaconda, but apart from big snakes, an amusing reliance on genre cliches and a puked-up corpse (alas, not Jon Voight this time), I can't discern much connection between the two. It took four screenwriters -- two veterans of something called They Nest and two more from the Robocop franchise -- to cobble this screenplay together. That's reasonable. With the death of Ed Wood, it wouldn't be possible for any one person to come up with anything this screwy.
The film can't even get its geography or zoology right, since it takes place in a Borneo (you know, the place the wild man comes from) that seems mostly populated by geographically confused South American snakes and birds. But that doesn't much matter. Reality is not a high concern in a movie like this, though the lack of it is symptomatic of Anacondas' slapdash nature. The plot is no better, and the acting worse, though it's perhaps unfair to lay too much blame on actors who are forced to say things like, "This is the jungle -- everything gets eaten here," and generally comport themselves in ways rarely encountered outside of B-movies.
The whole business of our intrepid band of adventurers -- none of whom has apparently ever heard of a helicopter -- winding their way through darkest Borneo on a leaky boat during the rainy season to find this rare, life-prolonging orchid that grows only in one small spot is certainly the stuff that B-movie fever dreams are made of. In other words, the plot doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, but it functions to place the characters in the requisite realm of herpetological horror. What more can you ask?
Want more logic gaps still? The film proposes that its titular anacondas have grown so humongous because the blood orchid is prolonging their lives. Fair enough. But that would seem to mean the snakes ingest the damn things in some manner, right? So why is everyone so shocked to find these scaly monsters within spitting distance of this incredibly cheesy looking botanical wonder? The only answer I can come up with is that the actors read the script and are merely following orders.
Since the film isn't exactly a high-budget endeavor and CGI serpents don't come cheap (even not-very-convincing ones), a good deal of the story is given over to human villainy. In keeping with Hollywood's xenophobic dictates, this means the character with the foreign accent (in this case, British); moreover, he has an unappealing haircut -- two factors that telegraph his perfidy from the very first scene.
I would like to think this is all intentional -- and it very well might be. A case can certainly be made that director Dwight Little has taken a deliberately campy approach to Anacondas. God knows, everything is staged and cut for maximum melodramatic impact; there's scarcely a reaction shot from any character in the whole film -- including the monkey -- that isn't gauged for absolute overstatement.
Little's filmography is the only thing arguing against this goofiness all being deliberate: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, the Robert Englund version of Phantom of the Opera and Free Willy 2 just don't attest to anything terribly cerebral. But regardless of actual intent, Anacondas' amusement factor and its couple of decent shock effects provide limited appeal. Taken in that light, the film is agreeable-enough rubbish.
That said, it definitely is rubbish.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke