Director: Luis Llosa
Cast: Jon Voight, Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz, Ice Cube, Jonathan Hyde, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, Vincent Castellanos
Plot: A documentary crew track a hidden tribe across the Amazon, picking up mysterious stranded stranger, Serone (Voight), a snake-poacher obsessed with capturing a legendary Anaconda.
Anaconda is one of those films that, no matter how bad people tell you it is, you just have to track it down to see for yourself. J-Lo takes on a 40ft snake in the Amazon… movies don’t really get any better, do they?
And in defence to Llosa, for a time, his dumb creature feature is a head above the competition. The set-up is smart with a documentary film crew tracking a tribe that has nothing to do with the eponymous snake. There is good chemistry between head researcher, Eric Stoltz, and director looking for her big break, Jennifer Lopez. The supporting cast are fleshed out appropriately. Owen Wilson, who I don’t even remember being in this, gets a lot more to do than I remembered, complete with not just the misfortune of being the ‘horny guy’ in a horror movie, but a functioning character arc that adds some middle act intrigue to the whole affair. Even the stereotypes rise above the usual pitfalls of their stock characters. Ice Cube is essentially Ice Cube, but in the jungle and with a degree in film studies. Jonathan Hyde is your typical stuck-up Brit that none of the other characters particularly like. However, they also have the benefit of sticking to the main flaw that almost every creature feature I have seen does. When the killing starts, they do not stop developing. Hyde pulls himself together and teaches himself to drive the boat. Ice Cube starts trying to figure a way out of the political struggle the group have found themselves trapped in on the boat. Even Jennifer Lopez who it is hard to shake off the concept that she is ‘singer trying her hand at acting’ doesn’t hold up the storyline too much. Sure, there is a dud line from her every now and again (Owen Wilson has more to be honest), but when it is needed, she pulls a performance out of the bag, making sure that Anaconda never hits cringe-worthy levels of bad. Anaconda is also fairly fun, because it plays around with what order it kills people off in. The lead role jumps around a fair bit and something simple like that, where it isn’t painfully obvious who is the next person to get chomped, gives Anaconda a lot of leash of life.
Sadly, it is the bloody Anaconda that ruins this movie. It is a load of crap. It is either brought to life using terrible CGI or, when the director is feeling edgy, quick flashes of animatronics that never convince. It is a pretty lame baddie when it comes to horror movie monsters. Before it is seen, it is brought to life using a staple of creature feature clichés. The POV tracking shot that doesn’t really bother trying to mimic the actual movements of a 40ft snake. The underwater shot of the victims’ legs as they swim in the water, stolen right off Jaws. The truth is that Llosa doesn’t have the patience to develop his monster properly. This is surprising, because he is more than willing to spend as much time as needed with his characters to develop them fully, but when it comes to the ‘cat-and-mouse’ game between man and snake, he rushes it. The jump scares come from the snake suddenly being right by the characters with no previous warning. He doesn’t feel the need to drive up that slow, burning dread. The finale doesn’t thrill as much as it thinks it does, because there are so little options when it comes to moving this giant snake about a set-piece. Thankfully, we have a more competent villain in the form of Jon Voight. He plays the creepy, yet resourceful poacher who comes aboard the boat and in a few wily moves, ends up taking over from the captain. The film almost becomes a hostage movie, which is far more interesting and different from the normal horror movie plot. This is easily Voight’s show, as he tears into his character with the energy of an actor who just wants to memorable in a film that is mostly likely going to be banished to a bargain bucket. It is almost a shame when the snake shows up and interrupts his villainous corruption of the film crew.
Final Verdict: Not quite as bad as the Nicki Minaj music video, but there is still a lot left to be desired in this under-achieving snake movie.