Anacondas: the Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)

Somedays I’m not certain whether I love bad movies, or just hate myself. Prime example: 2004’s Anacondas: the Hunt for the Blood Orchid. No lie, I have been waiting to review this film for years. Literally years. Once, a long time ago in a town too small to be worth mentioning, a hurricane drove me from the cattle pastures and alligator pits I was used to, and brought me to the hellish frozen tundra that is “the Tri-State area.” Almost like a reverse Wizard of Oz, one where I went from a land that was dominated by the hues of the palmetto bush and bug, to a new home that seemed to have been conceived in black and white. A Wesley Willis drawing come to life, yet still dominated by palmetto bugs.

I saw portions of Anacondas… while resting in a tiny motel off I-95. I had stayed up too late the previous night driving (I didn’t stop ’til 3AM), not realizing that I’d awake the next day still tired with only an hour left before either checking out, or spending an entire day in Nowheres-ville GA. Perhaps if more movies like this one had been lined up, I probably never would’ve left.

I really want to believe that the reason this film isn’t called the obvious Anaconda 2 is because it’s a cheap knock-off. Except that it’s a Columbia Pictures/Sony Screen “Gem” (co-)Production. Meaning, someone, somewhere, sat down in a room full of big-wig studio head-honchos and pitched this to them. Pitched and sold it to them, I might add.

“Remember that movie you green-lighted a few years back? The one that starred Ice Cube and a (not yet famous) Jennifer Lopez fighting against a giant snake? Yeah, well this one is just like that, only this time focusing on Anaconda’s true star: the horrible CGI snake!”

The titular “blood orchid” is some magical plant that’s Viagra and a cancer cure all rolled into one. So a major pharmaceutical company sends out a research team to Borneo to track the orchid down. Beyond making that decision, the company does absolutely nothing. Doesn’t rent a boat, or hire a Captain. Doesn’t mention that the team will be conducting their search during the dangerous rainy season. Such things piss the team off, but everyone’s cool with only having a week to search Borneo’s wilderness for a rare, mythical flower. As luck would have it, Captain Bill (Johnny Messner) has a boat, and as a tough guy, ex-pat, is just crazy enough to go against all odds by taking the job.

Amazingly enough, Captain Bill is actually one of the more believable elements in the story. With only seven days to find their prize, you’d think the prospect of having to stop at every rock cluster would be daunting to the team. Not so. Or, when Captain Bill dives into the river to wrestle, and kill, a crocodile, with his bare hands, the scientists would understand that this is some true wilderness shit.

Nope. They barely bat an eye at either. So when Bill’s boat (predictably) sinks, no one in the party has any objections to trudging on, through Borneo’s jungle, on foot. It’s not until Ben (Nicholas Gonzalez) is snatched from the river by the biggest snake Bill’s ever seen, that pro- and con- factions form in the party.

Luckily for us, our suspension of disbelieve imploded hours ago; making everyone who makes it this far into the movie immune to any such worries.

“Sometimes we do the wrong things for the right reasons.” Oh, tell me about it Captain Bill…

Even when “the jungle” is a painting…

One thing this film does have going for it are the sets. While I certainly don’t believe Dwight H. Little went all Werner Herzog Aguirre, the Wrath of God, by taking his crew into Borneo to film this mess. But Anacondas does look jungly enough that you don’t sit there and wonder which superstar rented out their Hollywood Hills backyard to the production.

Things get more absurd the longer the film plays. There’s a evil corporation subplot, one where the liaison, Jack (Matthew Marsden), does his best to sabotage the group after they decide to stop looking for the orchid. Failing that, he steals the group’s last raft, leaving them stranded.

Creating one of the silliest “against the clock” sequences ever. Jack needs to find the orchids before they un-bloom, everyone else needs to catch Jack before he finds said orchids and leaves them high and dry, and the anaconda is busy trying to finish them all off before any of those subplots get resolved. The movie is, after all, named after it.

Did I mention Bill’s pet monkey, Kong, who follows the group everywhere they go? A bizarre reminder to how Anacondas is PG-13, and thus marginally accessible to kids.

Christ, I still love this film…


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