Bad Movies I Love #6: AnacondaPosted: March 1, 2013
I love a great bad movie, and this is definitely one of the finest of the genre.
The movie follows a film crew headed up by director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) is travelling down the Amazon river to make a documentary about a lost native tribe, with the help of Terri’s old flame, anthropologist Cale (Eric Stoltz). The rest of the team are Terri’s old friend and cameraman Danny (Ice Cube), soundman Gary (Owen Wilson), production manager Denise (Kari Wuhrer) and stuffy English presenter Westridge (Jonathan Hyde).
Here’s the thing, remembering that this film was made in 1997, you can pretty much already tell who’s not going to make the end credits alive.
Terri and Cale hook up, as do Gary and Denise. Along the way they pick up stranded snake hunter Serone (Jon Voight) a character who’s dodgy vibe could only have been made clearer if he’d entered to old timey “DA-DA-DAAA!” music and been dumping a mysterious carpet off the side of his boat.
The team become suspicious of Serone, who pushes for them to travel a specific route, which becomes necessary after Cale is injured by a suspicious bug attack and it is the quickest way to help.
Serone then reveals that he is hunting a record breaking Anaconda which will make him a big amount of cash, if brought in alive.
The team aren’t happy, although Gary sides with him as he sees it as a way of getting something from the trip, the atmosphere aboard becomes increasingly tense as Serone seizes control, armed with a gun, until an attempt to catch the snake ends in Gary’s death.
The snake attacks again and there are more deaths, Serone is stopped from killing Terri by Cale, who briefly rouses from his unconscious state. The snake is killed and Serone is missing, with Cale out for the count again. Terri and Danny try to get supplies before getting grabbed by Serone, who uses them as bait to catch an even bigger snake.
Can Terri and Danny escape? Will Serone get his comeuppance?
Yes. To both questions.
This film is a bog standard creature feature, although gifted with a pretty good cast and raised into “so bad it’s good” territory thanks to several aspects, most notably Jon Voight.
Voight is taking the money and running. He hams it up to laughable degrees as the Paraguayan snake hunter, meaning he puts on a weird accent and spends most of the film overacting, giving it the old shifty eyes to show he’s a baddie and eyeing up J-Lo.
There’s no subtlety to the performance and being Voight, you’re automatically suspicious of him and wonder why the hell you’d pick him up. Aside from Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher there has never been a better argument against playing the good Samaritan in a movie.
Possibly the only rival in terms of just collecting a paycheck is Stoltz, who has maybe 4 scenes where he’s not just lying there knocked out, and yet he’s still above the title. Stoltz probably couldn’t believe his luck when he got the script- “Make out with Jennifer Lopez, take out Jon Voight and lie around a lot- where do I sign?”
As for the rest of the cast, they’re all alright. This is prior to J-Lo becoming massive, and it’s quite fun to see her in this daft, campy B-movie setting, and she’s gorgeous throughout, despite what her character goes through. The only concession to this is that some of her clothes get a bit damp, but she does fairly well as the film’s feisty heroine and is likable enough.
I think I was bound to like the movie because of the presence of Ice Cube, who I’m a massive fan of. What I love most about the former NWA member is that despite his streetwise dialogue and “angry face”, he’s still an oddly cuddly figure on screen which kind of robs him of ever being a proper movie badass. His big screen work is patchy, from the good (Three Kings, Boyz N The Hood, 21 Jump Street) to regularly appearing in rather naff genre flicks (John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars, Torque, XXX: State of the Union).
He’s quite good here as the loudmouth Danny, and it’s cool to see the black dude actually make it for a change.
The rest of the characters pretty much follow what they’re there to do to move the story along- the dodgy, anonymous captain of the boat is the first to get gobbled by the snake (not including the pre-credit killing of Danny Trejo).
Denise, the only other female character, does little other than whine, squeal and blub and it’s a bit of a relief when she buys the farm, just as it was with the non-Ripley woman in Alien. The film is also from the early stage of Owen Wilson’s career, which could be called the “Owen Dies” period (see also: The Haunting, Armageddon), it’s also his death which utterly kills the movie as a serious proposition due to the ludicrous “Owen in the snake” shot, where we see the outline of the departed Gary in the snake as it swims off. I can’t find a video, but rent the movie, it is a classic stupid movie moment.
The other stupid movie moment is when a character does something which the audience knows is clearly going to single their demise. I’m talking about the pompous English stereotype played by Jonathan Hyde. At the start of the film he’s annoying, but halfway through he’s, well, he’s still annoying but at least he’s getting on better with the other characters. He’s also a vital part of the team, being the only one who knows how to drive the boat.
So, when Cube asks if it’s hard to drive and Westridge shows him how, the audience can pretty much see the character putting his own head through the noose. If you find yourself in a B-movie and have a useful skill don’t show one of the above the title stars how to do it, or you’re pretty much for the chop.
Formulaic, bad effects and some dodgy acting, this movie has all the ingredients to make it a terrible movie, but somehow it’s naffness makes it rather good fun. Check it out if you’re wanting to watch a movie and not have to think that much.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.