ANACONDA, a relic of late 90s shocker flix, bills itself as a horror movie, but in reality has more in common with the monster movie tradition. Go back many years to the great monster flicks of the 50s, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THEM!, etc. etc. This movie takes a page directly out of their book, and throws in some JAWS for good measure. Overall, an incredibly cheesy film, but so entertaining you forgive all its faults (almost).
Here's the plot: An anthropologist (Eric Stoltz, in about ten minutes of acting), hires a beautiful film student (Jennifer Lopez), her cameraman (Ice Cube), a sound guy, a production manager, and a British narrator to film a documentary on a lost jungle tribe known as the people of the mist (ooooohhhhh!). Together on a boat, complete with a local captain, they embark upon their journey down the Amazon River.
Soon into their journey, they come across a snake poacher stranded on a broken ship. Here is where the fun begins. The snake poacher is played by Jon Voight (a.k.a Angelina Jolie’s dad)...I'll get to more about his performance later, but lets just say he's as much a reason to see the film as the snakes. Anyways, before long, we begin to realize that something weird is going on with this guy. Bad luck just starts happening to the crew, beginning with an accident that leaves Stoltz in bed for the rest of the movie. Is it an accident, or is it all part of the plot?
So I'm trying to make it sound more intricate than it is, but the point is: this film actually does have a bit of a plot and isn't just TWISTER with snakes in it. Voight takes the boat deep into a certain area of the river where they finally come across...guess...c'mon...wait for it, wait for it...an anaconda! A big one! A real big one! So big it eats the boat captain!
Now, the snake of the title (there are actually two) alternates between looking like a machine and a computer animation, but if you suspend your disbelief (which is pretty much a requirement for any film I review), you can buy that this huge snake actually does move at the speed of light (among other ridiculous concepts). Soon, the cast and crew gets killed off and eaten. As a result of Voight’s character, there are double-crossings and betrayals galore.
There are essentially two main reasons to watch ANACONDA. The first is the innovative way in which they make the snake and its attacks interesting. There are about four unbelievable shots in the movie which together were with the price of admission (I got a student discount when I saw it back in the late 90s). One involves the presence of a victim in the snake's belly as it swims by. Another involves the catching of a victim as he leaps from a tall waterfall. The other two are so great that I don't want to give them away, but they come near the very end.
The other reason you would want to watch ANACONDA is for Jon Voight. This man is awesome. He overplays his character perfectly for this sort of film. You can tell he is having fun and being the campy character that Ice Cube and Lopez have no idea how to be. And, man, does it work. He chews on scenery and spits it out as the snake does to its prey. If Voight weren't in the film, it would probably be unwatchable. Let's hope we continue to see more of this great actor (for some really good movies, check out his past films such as MIDNIGHT COWBOY, or DELIVERANCE).
When all is said and done, ANACONDA was a blast. I went with a bunch of my friends. Cheered when we were supposed to. Screamed when we were supposed to. It is a bit scary. It is very funny. It is candy. But, best of all, it is a B-monster-movie.
Rating: *** (out of a possible 4)