One of the greatest movie scenes of all time comes from the 1996 film Anaconda. The 40-foot title creature eats villain Jon Voight, then promptly regurgitates him. Voight flies across the room, lands on his knees in front of Jennifer Lopez, and winks at her before dropping over dead. The new sequel Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid has no Jon Voight, no Jennifer Lopez, and no scenes as wonderfully, deliriously wacky as that one.
The plot involves a group of scientists who travel to Borneo in search of a rare flower called the Blood Orchid, which supposedly has “fountain of youth properties.” They plan to extract those properties and sell them to cosmetics companies, pharmaceutical companies, and others who would pay to benefit from something that is certain to be “bigger than Viagra.” Naturally, the rinky-dink little boat that takes them into the heart of the jungle crashes, leaving all the humans stranded in the middle of nowhere.
I could tell you more about the characters, but there’s not much point. They’re all generic, here only to be eaten one after another by the gigantic anacondas that they encounter. (The fact that anacondas can’t actually be found in Borneo doesn’t seem to have concerned anyone involved in the making of this project.)
Whereas the original Anaconda had one snake, the sequel has many. We learn that the story takes place during anaconda mating season, in which the creatures come from every direction, ultimately gathering together in a muddy pit for an “anaconda orgy.” I am not making this up. The boat captain knows all of this, but one has to wonder how he accumulated such information. How many people would actually hang around to observe such a thing?
When I first heard the concept of the snake orgy, I admit feeling somewhat thrilled by it. After all, such a revelation could only mean one thing: one of the characters was going to fall into that muddy pit and meet a gruesome demise. The very idea seemed alive with the possibility of matching the Jon Voight upchuck scene from the original.
Alas, when the scene does occur, it fails to take on the irresistible goofiness of its predecessor. In fact, none of the snake attacks are as creative or interesting here as they were in the first picture. For whatever else it lacked, Anaconda embraced its own B-movie feel, and went out of its way to deliver the goods. In contrast, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid spends way too much time on the search for the flower. When the snakes do attack, there’s not much originality or surprise to their methods. No one gets spun up and down like a yo-yo, or puked back up.
From a technical standpoint, the film is well made. The actors do what they can considering that they’re nothing more than glorified snake food. The special effects are perhaps slightly more convincing this time, but also less fun. I suppose there is also something to be said for the mere sight of an anaconda eating a human being. You don’t see that in movies everyday, so there’s novelty value, even if it was done better before.
This could have been a better movie, though. Anaconda had a good cast that included Ice Cube and Owen Wilson, in addition to Voight and Lopez. The sequel’s biggest star is Morris Chestnut, and if you don’t know who he is…well, you get the drift. Maybe a more charismatic cast would have enlivened the proceedings. Or maybe – probably - what the film needed was to embrace its own concept a lot more fully. After all, any movie in which a person falls into a muddy pit during an anaconda orgy should, by all measure of reason, be a must-see event.
( out of four)
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid is rated PG-13 for action violence, scary images and some language. The running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.
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