As following decades raised the bar for ridiculousness (quality not so much) in B-movies, newer generations of genre cinema might look back at late 90s/early 2000s killer animals movie and wonder how could people be satisfied with just regular animals like snakes and sharks, why the anaconda doesn’t summon galestorms and unites with other anaconda to become a giant monster bigger than a japanese city… or its “ready to be rampaged on” scale model.
What does get passed for sure is how crappy the effects are, and i can’t honestly sit here and lament the lack of a modern Anaconda reboot (though it’s apparently in the works), as its sequels aren’t exactly.. remembered or discussed as of today, and most of the series’ legacy i feel is the terrible CGI of Anaconda 3… and it eventually crossing over with the Lake Placid franchise, so all in all it did manage to carve its own place in the killer snakes movie niche.
But i’m not here to look at the franchise as a whole, we will eventually get to all the follow-ups, today we’re giving a look at the original Anaconda movie from 1997, directed by Luis Llosa, and see why it’s has become a cult classic b-movie of sorts in time.
It definitely didn’t stand out at the time nor it does now in terms of plot, as it follows a documentary crew tha voyages into the Amazon river via boat in order to find and film a rarely seen tribe of Amazon natives, but they get hijacked by a seeminly stranded crazy snake hunter, who wants to use them for his plan: capturing a legendary, giant green anaconda swimming in those waters.
Nothing new, like its casting, which continues the old B-movie tradition of putting a lot of B-listers, actors that would later go on to become famous in other genres or musical celebrities, in this case we have both Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube as the main characters, with the odd presence of Owen Wilson in a small part, and even a totally unrecognizable Danny Trejo playing a very short bit as the poacher in the prologue, who tries to escape the anaconda but then, cornered, shoots himself.
Gotta love how the cast also includes pluri-nominated actors like Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Hyde, but it’s definitely Jon Voight (of Midnight Cowboy’s fame, among others) that steals the show as with his uber campy performance as the obsessed, shady, Bible quoting, over-the-top snake hunter Paul Serone, as Eric Stoltz doesn’t do much in the movie and Hyde does have enough screentime to make a Fitzcarraldo reference (killer snake movies audiences go crazy for nods to Werner Herzog’s cinema, afterall), but the center of attention is definitely Voight’s character and performance.
There’s not much to the characters either, but they aren’t that bad, so there’s some decent conflict between the human characters (even some tense moments) to drive the narrative along without it relying too much (or exclusively) on the monster/creature, but it also delivers on the snake action, the anaconda isn’t reserved on attacking them every chance it gets, at all, and it looks good for the time. Pretty good combination of animatronic for the anaconda and CG that still looks fairly convincing, the effects aren’t amazing, but good overall, the snake itself does look almost real, miles above the many crappy CG reptiles and monsters that would infest later B-movies.
The ending confrontation is especially fun, with some explosions, crumbling buildings and Ice Cube pick-axing a giant burning anaconda, but even outside of the finale, the movie delivers on spectacle and satysfying action scenes, and it comes from a time film like these had good production values, good enough to warrant theatrical releases.
Overall, Anaconda it’s a solid, fun fast paced killer snake flick, and while it isn’t exactly great or good when you get down to (especially considering the overall acting), it’s a competent B-movie that delivered what it promised as a jungle-themed killer animal flick, and even the bad parts are enjoyable as they are. I still wouldn’t call it a “so bad it’s good” movie, but of course i’m not part of a group of self-proclaimed film buffs that always demostrated how little they knew of bad cinema.