Something that was missing from this year’s Halloween movie special week was obviously creature features, so here are four Anaconda movies which more or less succeed to entertain.
(USA 1997, director: Luis Llosa)
A documentary film crew is forced by an insane hunter to capture the world’s largest and deadliest Anaconda in the Amazon jungle.
Being promoted as a thrilling experience, this is anything but. The problem is obviously the snake that, like many other CGI creatures, isn’t that intimidating. There are also scenes in which some sort of rubber snake is used, but this doesn’t make it any more frightening. Of course if it would all be handled with a tongue-in-cheek approach, then it wouldn’t be so bad. Or at least it would be so bad that it would be good fun to watch. A missed opportunity to make this a good adventure movie is also the setting with some pretty cool snake statues which could have made for an interesting legend background story.
As it is, the director makes the mistake so many others have done before in the genre, mainly introducing characters who are only mildly interesting and spending less screen time with the titular animal. It’s a shame, because the last 30 minutes or so are quite entertaining, and with Ice Cube’s character delivering some nice one-liners, in addition to his banter with a snobby filmmaker, it has a certain entertainment value. But with Jennifer Lopez and Eric Stoltz portraying quite bland characters and even Jon Voight trying too hard to be a psychopathic hunter, the movie can’t really decide if it wants to be taken seriously or as a trash movie. It fails in both categories and only offers a short dosage of fun mixed with rather boring moments.
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid
(USA 2004, director: Dwight Little)
A scientific expedition to find the Blood Orchid that can prolong life and cure diseases ends up in survival as not only giant snakes but also team members are out for blood.
This movie is the perfect example of “could have been so great if the director knew what to do with it”. For starters, the anaconda is a lot more threatening. Despite CGI, there are enough scenes in which it’s partly shown to great effect, almost looking like a real one. The last part of the movie also has some very creepy and disgusting scenes which only show the potential of it.
However, just like with most creature features, things start to fall apart when characters are introduced and talk about their ambitions, relationships, etc., filling in the bits where the snake is somewhere else. It’s such a shame that the adventure parts make way for these dialogue scenes of characters who’re just as replaceable as in the original. The action and horror sequences are all present and correct, but there are just too many talk scenes which hurt the pacing. In many ways, this is the better Anaconda movie, but it also shares the plot and character development problems, making it almost worthwhile to watch for the whole running time.
Anaconda 3: Offspring
(USA 2008, director: Don E. Fauntleroy)
In order to produce a cure for illnesses, a billionaire breeds a giant anaconda who escapes and has to be hunted down by a group of mercenaries and a scientist.
When a creature feature goes TV, one has to be careful, and this installment is no exception, although it has some things going for it. First, there’s John Rhys-Davis, known from the Indiana Jones movies or even Wing Commander games, and then there’s David Hasselhoff who certainly needs no introduction (Baywatch, anyone?). They’ve certainly seen their popular acting days end here. But at least the Hoff seems to enjoy this campy flick. It’s only too bad the audience can only partly share his enthusiasm.
The biggest problem is again the snake that just looks cheap. Even the added gore effects (and there are lots of them) doesn’t help the lack of danger coming from the creature. When a hunter troop shows up with all guns blazing, the bad special effects show as well. Despite lots of limbs torn off, heads being swallowed and people pierced through, the movie ends up to be pretty boring. It’s weird, but the action becomes monotonous, as there are just not enough closed spaces and the sense of danger present in the preceding movies. Hasselhoff as the badass bounty hunter and Crystal Allen as the tough heroine try their best, but it’s just not enough to pull this slow-moving snake movie out of the mediocrity mud.
Anacondas: Trail of Blood
(USA 2009, director: Don E. FauntLeRoy)
A genetic experiment in the form of a giant anaconda is split in half and produces another of his species, both of which have to be stopped and captured by mercenaries before a group of scientists is eaten alive in the woods.
Oh well, this is another perfect example of why TV creature features should stay there or put up for rental, as it’s simply a boring representative of the genre. Even with the return of the tough survivor scientist and the same actress, there are too many things going wrong here. First, there are way too many characters who don’t have a single memorable trait about them, making them immediately forgettable and unlikable. Shooting and getting killed might work in some action movies, but in a creature feature, repeating the same attack patterns is just lame.
The movie also tries to be something more than its budget allows. For example, there’s a chase sequence with a car on which a man-on-man fight is mixed with the attacks of the snake behind them. With a big budget and better actors, this would definitely make for a great scene. Unfortunately the bad special effects ruin it. There’s also a general lack of direction in most of the scenes. No suspense and a snake that looks too small and big at different times makes for an installment that is best forgotten and hopefully a reminder than some creature features should be put to rest or sleep before the audience meets this fate.
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