The summer heat has finally arrived. If you’re a horror fan, maybe that means camping and ‘don’t go in the woods’ horror movies. Or perhaps you’re more inclined watch ‘creepy crawly’ horror flicks. Killer shark movies, Giant bugs. Hungry crocodiles. In 1997, Columbia Pictures enjoyed a surprise box office hit with the Jennifer Lopez-starring Anaconda. Critics weren’t as impressed, but that didn’t stop Hollywood from green-lighting a delayed sequel, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. Just in time for summer, Netflix has added the sequel for fans of B-monster movies.
Pharmaceutical researchers head down to Borneo to find a rare life-extending plant – the blood orchid. Though the rainy season has made much of the river paths unnavigable, the blood orchid’s short blooming season forces the team to risk the trip. But an accident leaves the crew stranded in the Borneo jungle. To make matters worse, it’s anaconda mating season. And the blood orchid’s enriching properties have extended the snakes’ lives, allowing them to grow to record sizes.
Anacondas Delivers More CGI Snakes, Fewer Scares
Not surprisingly, Anacondas follows the time-tested tradition of sequels – more of what made the original movie work. It’s not just one giant anaconda, but several horny male anacondas looking to mate in what sounds like a reptilian ‘orgy’ in the jungle. Director Dwight H Little (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers) follows the 1997 movie’s blueprint closely, deviating very little from the set-up. This means more anaconda POV-shots, jarringly edited snake attacks, and over-head camera shots of the beasts slinking by potential victims unseen in the river.
Though I wouldn’t so far as to call Anacondas suspenseful, the snake teases largely work to make you feel a little squeamish.
Despite its straightforward approach, Anacondas plays much better than expected. Little seems to get what it is about snakes and ‘creepy crawlies’ that elicit shivers from people. Though I wouldn’t so far as to call Anacondas suspenseful, the snake teases largely work to make you feel a little squeamish. And Little puts poisonous snakes and dark caves to good use to play on other common fears. A few shots of digested corpses spilling out of dead snakes contribute to the sequel’s PG-13 rating. There’s even one solid jump scare that still works in spite of it being clearly telegraphed.
Anacondas Takes Itself a Little Too Seriously
Unfortunately, Anacondas doesn’t fully embrace its B-movie monster movie roots. Unlike Eight-Legged Freaks or Piranha 3D, Anacondas takes itself too seriously, This is in part seen in the sequel’s slack pacing. That is, Anacondas takes far too long in setting up its premise. This is a sequel to a movie about a giant man-eating snake – audiences know what they’re paying to see. And it’s not compelling character arcs and human drama. Anyone watching the sequel is here to watch big snakes coil around victims and eat them whole.
… Anacondas takes far too long in setting up its premise.
In regards to the anacondas themselves, the sequel may have more snakes, but the special effects certainly haven’t improved in the several years that have passed since Anaconda. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Hollywood relied heavily on CGI technology that still wasn’t perfect. As a result, the anacondas don’t move naturally or look convincing in every scene. The same problem impacted 1997’s Anaconda. But the original movie also had several more deliberately paced scenes of the snake wrapping around its victim. Little’s Anacondas seems more intent on faster-paced attacks, thereby exposing the limitations of its effects. For a B-monster movie, this isn’t a problem, except that Anacondas occasionally forgets that it is, ultimately, just a B-movie.
Upgraded Snakes, Downgraded Cast
Anacondas may have more CGI-snakes with which to contended, but the sequel downgrades its cast. The 1997 original movie boasted a surprisingly strong cast in spite of its B-movie roots. In addition to Jennifer Lopez, Anaconda included Ice Cube, Owen Wilson, Eric Stoltz, and a scene-chewing Jon Voight. Comparatively, Anacondas has Morris Chestnut, who is a fine actor, but lacks the same name value as a Lopez, Wilson, or Ice Cube. Arrow fans will recognize Karl Yune, who’s regulated to playing the token local. Meaty Johnny Messner, filling in as the obligatory hero, is a little stiff, but broods just enough to work for the movie.
Anacondas a Harmless Sequel To a Middling Movie
Anaconda will never be confused for a classic monster movie. In fact, the 1997 ‘nature strikes back‘ movie isn’t even likely to attain cult status. But it’s silly fun – the kind of movie for a rainy Sunday afternoon. The sequel, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, almost replicates what worked the first time around. Neither boring nor uproariously fun, Anacondas is an inoffensive, if not bland, monster movie. If you’ve watched most of Netflix’s horror catalogue, you could do a lot worse than Anacondas.