From the Archive – Anaconda (1997)

Anaconda

 

“You can’t scream if you can’t breathe.”

Directed by Luis Llosa
Starring Jennifer Lopez, John Voight and Ice Cube

An anthropologist (Eric Stolz) and a film crew (including J-Lo and Ice Cube), travelling into the South American rainforest to film an undisturbed tribe are implausibly hijacked, for no very good reason, by an insane Paraguayan snake hunter (Voight) who wants to capture a giant anaconda.

Instead – predictably – the snake hunts them, eating most of the crew before finally getting to the snake hunter, then being blowed up by Ice Cube.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, for starters, check out that casting and tell me the producer was in a legal state of mind. John Voight as the novice priest-turned-psychotic snake hunter is a revelation in failure, while a fairly talented supporting cast (Ice Cube, Stolz, even Owen Wilson) are basically relegated to the ‘getting eaten and beaten’ watch (Stolz wisely spends most of the movie in a coma).

There are no surprises in the death toll, save that the sissy-chick is killed by the snake hunter, not the snake; in fact, you can pretty much count the seconds until each loser gets chomped. The sleazy boat pilot is never going to last, and the moment the whiny Brit drama queen (Jonathan Hyde) starts being useful and likeable, you know he’s toast.

Our ostensible heroine, Jennifer Lopez’s documentary director, is by turns pissy and ineffectual. There isn’t a single character you really give a shit about. And then there’s the snake itself.

The opening text tells us that the anaconda is so vicious and evil that it yaks up its prey so it can go off and eat someone else, presumably because someone pointed out that unless you have one snake per victim, it’ll just chow down, then go off and sleep for a couple of weeks while it digests. This anaconda also kills by crushing, instead of suffocating its victims, as real snakes do. Oh, and at one point it fairly clearly kills a leopard. Not a jaguar, but an honest-to-god, ye olde worlde leopard.

Factual errors aside, the snake is terrible. The model is bad enough, looking as it does for all the world like a fuck-off great plastic snake on a stick, but the CGI is worse. Most notably, the damn thing just doesn’t move like a snake. Plus the ‘oesophagus-cam’ shot fails to convince on any level, as does the ‘Owen Wilson’s screaming face showing through the gut-wall of the snake’ bit.

The plot also makes no sense. The snake hunters have this whole insane plot to hijack the film crew’s boat, but the boat seems to belong to one of the hunters – the sleazy pilot – and since they don’t use any of them as bait, there is simply nothing that the hunters need, that the film crew could possibly provide.

What’s right with it?

Are you paying attention? Nothing! It isn’t even funny. Even the decent performers labour with tripe for dialogue, and the few swish cuts and dissolves just show up the film’s inferiority compared to the classics.

How bad is it really?

This film is a genuine piece of crap. Watch it at thy peril.

Best…Oh, I can’t even pretend.

What’s up with…?

  • Sorry to be the broken record, but John Voight as a South American snake hunter? He snarls limply, and fails to convince as evil, just ending up kind of seedy and unpleasant. We all wish he’d been eaten earlier; say before the film started.
  • All this bollocks about anacondas being evil? They have this legend of the giant devil-snake; why not have it actually be the giant devil snake? Since it doesn’t move like an anaconda, hunt like an anaconda or kill like an anaconda, why get so attached to the idea of it being an actual anaconda?
  • This damn film? I mean really.

Ratings

Production Values – It pretty much stinks. The jungle looks OK sometimes, but the snake is dreadful. 16

Dialogue and Performances – When the acting is good, the script stinks, and the script is never good. It’s not even memorably bad, just utterly banal. Ordinarily, J-Lo’s insipid sultriness would win the turkey, but John Voight tops even her. 19

Plot and Execution – ‘I will plot intricately to take over your boat, because I need to prove that I am evil’. And that – plus the eating – is about your plot. 17

Randomness – Why the plot to take over the boat? Hell, why the whole damn movie? Nothing much makes any sense. 15

Waste of Potential – It’s a horror movie about snakes. People are scared of snakes, right? This could have been great. All it would have needed was a cast that makes sense for even a moment, a decent director, and some infernal influence to explain the snake’s non-snakeyness. 13

Overall 82%

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