Anaconda (1997)
8/10
Intentionally bad, or unintentionally successful?
16 October 2011
I didn't truly start enjoying Anaconda until the final forty minutes of the film. Then once I saw those minutes, I began to enjoy most of the film. It's difficult to do a creature feature well, and I think the film is being unintentionally funny a lot of the time. Especially when the actors it's boasting are Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube. There's almost more to laugh at than be scared of.

I have no problem at all with Lopez and Ice Cube. I haven't seen a lot of Jennifer Lopez's work, and I adore Ice Cube in pretty much everything he's in. He's one of those actors where if he's in a bad movie he himself isn't bad the movie, the directing, the screenplay, or whatever setback is bad. I'm just saying that when you see those two playing a couple in a horror film it's hard to take it seriously. Thankfully - they're not the reason this film isn't perfect.

The story revolves around a documentary crew, Terri (Lopez), Danny (Cube), Denise (Kari), Gary (Wilson), Warren (Hyde), and Steven (Stoltz), that venture out into the jungle hoping to garner footage of a rare tribe called "Shirishama." While traveling on the Amazon River, the crew finds a stranded boater named Sarone (Voight) who knows about the tribe, but acts very unsettling throughout most of the first half.

Turns out that Sarone is searching for an anaconda, and is hoping to catch one alive in order to obtain a very large sum of money. He gets the whole crew involved, and doesn't really care who lives or who dies. The thought of being out in the middle of the jungle is creepy - yet it proposes a good campy quality Anaconda hits a high note with.

Background scenery is pushed to the foreground here. We get beautiful shots of swamps (yes, swamps), incredible angles of trees, and even some very eerie and suspenseful underwater shots. Director Luis Llosa explores every possible angle of the setting so that not only is this a creepy B movie, but a stylish one as well.

When it comes to the snake - the film begins to lose some of its redeeming qualities. There is a scene where very many snakes flood the boat. Unable to distinguish real from fake due to the small stature of the beasts, my only guess is that they were in fact real. When the anaconda makes his first appearance, it looks undeniably animatronic and the CGI used when the beast swallows its first prey is pathetic. Anaconda was made with a budget over $40 million, so this snake's execution is one of two things (1) maybe the hefty budget didn't get them very far after all, or (2, the much plausible explanation) it was supposed to look cheap and fake to give a nod to old creature-features we would've seen Saturday at 10:30pm on Svengoolie.

Jon Voight is probably the highest point in the film. His unsettling approach to the crew rubs off on the audience almost making them a little scared as well. His face alone reminds me of Gary Busey on a bad day, or Nick Nolte after one too many. The other members of the documentary crew, like Ice Cube and Owen Wilson, are severely underused, and but their presence is enough for personal satisfaction.

The final scene where its two on one with the anaconda is great popcorn fun, and after the film you feel you've spent an hour and a half back in time. Unfortunately, Anaconda was blown out of proportion once the sequel came. After the first two theatrical films were released, the name and story became a Syfy franchise. Currently, in 2011, we have four Anaconda films including this one. I'm sure in five years we'll have two more to go along with it. The bad thing about a good B movie idea is it can be abused with a single sequel.

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Jonathan Hyde, and Kari Wuhrer. Directed by: Luis Llosa.
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