Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)

Cynthia Fuchs

There's some odd cosmic poetry in the fact that Dwight Little, director of Anacondas, also directed Free Willy 2.

Anacondas: the Hunt for the Blood Orchid

Director: Dwight H. Little
Cast: Johnny Messner, KaDee Strickland, Matthew Marsden, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Morris Chestnut, Nicholas Gonzalez, Eugene Byrd, Karl Yune
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Screen Gems
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2004-08-27

There's some odd cosmic poetry in the fact that Dwight Little, director of Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, also directed Free Willy 2. After all that cheery gamboling on the bright blue ocean, he's concocted a darker and less uplifting adventure, though still exceedingly wet. The focus this time is not a friendly whale, but a passel of wily giant anacondas who make it their mission in life to seize, squeeze, and eat all humans who wander into their wilds-of-Borneo territory.

Little's sequel to the surprisingly endearing Anaconda (1997) essentially repeats all the moves of the original, lining up a crew of ambitious young adult victims who can't imagine what they're getting themselves into. You, however, can well imagine, because the movie begins with a set of local hunters pursued by one of the snakes. Though the monster remains ominously unseen, the violence it does to one hunter (Khoa Do) is alarmingly visible, in the sort of disjointed point-of-view camera work, thrashing-about CGI, and smash-cut editing that characterizes such scary-movie set-ups.

Once this poor fellow is brutally eliminated, the scene cuts to New York City, where "researchers" and "executives" gnash their teeth and argue over whether the designated team of victims will go to Borneo (guess what they decide). Numbers cruncher Gordon (Morris Chestnut) and lead scientist Jack (Matthew Marsden) are most ardent to go find the "blood orchid," which blooms only once every seven years and appears to be a floral version of the "fountain of youth," promising all kinds of social, medicinal, and -- most importantly -- financial benefits. Opposing their bland ambition is Gail (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), a scientist who distrusts their scheme. Meantime, Jack's former student and current assistant ("the best researcher I've got"), Sam (KaDee Johnson) withholds judgment.

Of course, it doesn't matter what any of them thinks: once the head suit (Denis Arndt) hears about the likely profits ("That'd be bigger than Viagra!"), he exhorts, "Get your asses down to Borneo." And so their fates are sealed. As Anacondas' slasher movie dimensions take shape, the team is expanded to include more potential victims. In country, they are joined by a cocky doctor, Ben (Nicholas Gonzalez), who comes on to Sam and so, deserves his grisly fate, and a loudly entertaining tech, Cole (Eugene Byrd, who cheated Eminem in 8 Mile), who speaks the anxiety the other feel (his running commentary is the film's most colorful, comic, and anguished, recalling Aliens' Hudson [Bill Paxton]). Bad weather leaves them without options: they must seek out the orneriest captain in the seediest bar, Bill Johnson (Johnny Messner), accompanied by loyal first mate Tran (Karl Yune).

The threat emerges slowly; the camera pulls out to reveal the snake slithering by under waist-deep water, even as the group remains oblivious. They're preoccupied: the girls are competitive (Gail assumes good girl Sam slept with Jack to get her job) and frightened (by Bill's pet monkey Kong, by a crocodile), while the men are, by turns, wary, brash, and lascivious (Ben and Jack being the most obnoxious on this count). Cole, ever stepping to his own drummer, pays strange homage to the first film ("I knew this other guy who went to the Amazon to make a documentary, and they were all eaten by snakes!", and Bill (who reveals that he's in Borneo because during his military stint, in the Special Forces, he "did some things that I want to forget") maintains his distance from these cityfolks, but soon enough, they're all in it together, stalked by the snakes ("Everything gets eaten out here," deadpans Bill, "It's the jungle").

In other words, the sequel follows Anaconda's plot, only here the traitor -- revealed early -- is one of the crew's own, the (apparently odiously) British-accented Jack. Once the first victim is dispatched by a decently CGI-ed monster, the survivors face a growing moral tension, between the crass profiteers and whiny moralists ("Someone is dead!"), distressed by their lost acquaintances and opting for survival over wealth. They also face tribulations: they lose the boat over a waterfall, suffer leeches, blistered feet, and poisonous spiders, and dissent among the group. Even as the team is squabbling and fretting, Bill insists that, once boatless, they must bushwhack together: "This jungle is all green all the time, and you will get lost." Jack grumbles, Cole complains, and the women -- the most insightful of the crew -- begin to respect one another and, not incidentally, resent the men.

So that they have something to do besides fight amongst themselves, they also keep stumbling on bodies in various states of repugnant decay (as if they need reminding of the stakes here: "What happened to him?" asks one team member when they find a regurgitated corpse, to which Bill responds, "Anaconda!" The film is at its best when it gives in to such impulses: the loopier the dialogue, the better.

While it sorely misses Jon Voight's campy delirium (recall Sarone's squinty-eyed declaration, "Eet wraps eetz coils around you, tighter zan any luvah!"), Anacondas does conjure up its own kind of silliness. Jack's self-justification ("Scientists have always risked their lives") is more mealy-mouthed than a grand vision. Everyone else pretty much does what J.Lo and Ice Cube once did so well: they run from snakes, hack at snakes, sweat and get wet. Amid all the overreaching, expensive, mostly tacky ambition of this summer's movies, it's good to see a B-movie that knows what it is.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Rather than once again exploring the all-too-familiar territory of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva's debut novel contextualizes the work's origins and gets inside the mind of its creator.

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been told and retold so many times over the years that, by this point, one might be hard-pressed to find a single soul evenly glancingly familiar with western culture who isn't at least tangentially acquainted with the holiday classic. This is, of course, a bit of holiday-themed hyperbole, but the fact remains that the basic premise of A Christmas Carol has become so engrained in our culture that it would seem near impossible to imagine a time prior to its existence. It's universally-relatable themes of the power of kindness, redemption and forgiveness speaks to the heart of the Christmas season – at least as it has been presented in the 174 years since it was first published in 19 December 1843 -- just in time for Christmas.

Keep reading... Show less

Following his excellent debut record Communion, Rabit further explores the most devastating aspects of its sound in his sophomore opus Les Fleurs du Mal.

Back in 2015 Rabit was unleashing Communion in the experimental electronic scene. Combining extreme avant-garde motifs with an industrial perspective on top of the grime sharpness, Eric C. Burton released one of the most interesting records of that year. Blurring lines between genres, displaying an aptitude for taking things to the edge and the fact that Burton was not afraid to embrace the chaos of his music made Communion such an enticing listen, and in turn set Rabit to be a "not to be missed" artist.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.