Thursday, October 08, 2015

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid

2004  ***1/2

Yes, that's right, three and half stars for the sequel to Anaconda.  I was as surprised as you are.

Our heroes run a small but aggressive drug research company, and just as they're about to get their funding pulled they make a breakthrough discovery.  A certain orchid in the jungles of Borneo seems to contain the chemical key to slow down the aging process -- unfortunately it only blooms once every seven years, and only for six months at a time, and actually there's only two weeks left.  D'oh!

Double d'oh, it's the rainy season!  As a result they must hire the one boat captain crazy enough to take them in, and pay him 50 grand to boot.  His name:  Bill Johnson.  Yeah pretty boring.  A ways down the river Bill spots rough water ahead and wants to turn back, but the head of the expedition, eager for untold riches, offers Bill another 50 grand to press on.

I bring this up because after things go south, as you know they do, Bill refers back to that decision and takes responsibility for it.  Which is an unusual thing for a person in a crappy horror movie to do.  After a pretty exciting "Oh shit! We're going over a waterfall!" scene, the boat is destroyed and they have to figure out a new plan.  So they salvage what they can, find a working sat phone and call one of Bill's friends to pick them up the following day.  They just have to hike to the rendezvous.

Wait, what?  They brought a working waterproof satellite phone with them?  They had an answer to their problem in just a couple of minutes?  That's something else I'm not used to seeing in these movies.

It's when they start to walk that things start getting snakey, and I would bet you already knew that letter S was in the title for a reason.  This is one of those weird examples of movie making far more competent than you would expect for the situation.  The characters are likeable, they make good decisions, they don't spend a lot of time arguing, and, for the most part, they're always working with a decent plan given what they have to work with.  There is some drama about finding the blood orchid despite the ever-present danger, but it's well-developed and serves to move the plot instead of annoying me.

Here are some things you might find annoying:  Bill has a pet monkey, there's one woman who, while charming, had an accent that seemed to slip back and forth from Australian to American Southern, there are bad attempts at comic relief via unwanted flirting towards the beginning, and there's a high strung black guy who edges into comic relief a couple of times but mostly keeps his head like a real person.  (Thankfully, he's not the only black guy in the group, otherwise his token status coupled with that behavior would be pretty insulting.)  The snakes are sometimes some less-than-top-notch CG effects, but the production seemed to be aware of that and made some good decisions to adjust (taking a page from the Book of Jaws).

Yeah, so, whadda ya know?  I can't really push this on anyone as a must-see, but it is surprisingly worth your time.  And it's a Two that's better than the One.  Anacondas:  Wrath of Khan.


JPX said...

I love your paragraph of nitpicks! For the life of me I cannot recall whether I watched this or not but I love me an animal run a mock story! It's amazing how far CGI has come since 2004. What once looked great now looks fake (I want that on a tee-shirt). So many movies suffer from CGI that now looks sucky (e.g. the 'Blade' series, Star Wars Special Editions, Lawnmower Man...). Fun review!

Catfreeek said...

I think I've seen this but can't rightfully remember. I do love when characters make good decisions though.

Julie said...

Not to get all competitive, but I think I basically got the point across in fewer words. I win. Not that it's a competition. Or anything.

AC said...

This does sound like a surprisingly fun pick.