The F*ckin Black Sheep: Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid!

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!



To quote the immortal Indiana Jones, “I hate snakes!” Oh but the universal fear of such slimy, slithery reptiles – or ophidiophobia – has long been a cinematic tradition on which to set a tale of terror. Yet, there’s one such subspecies that has leaps and bounds more unabashed camp, kitsch and overall fun than any other. Of course, we speak of the guilty pleasure that is the ANACONDA series, big-budget B-movie creature-features that prominently highlight the largest, heaviest, most intimidating snakes on planet Earth. Well, that and actors from BOYZ N’ THE HOOD and the CW!

And while the original ANACONDA has its legion of fans that have ascended the film into the rarified air of it’s-so-bad-it’s-too-good-to-miss status (the late debatably great Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5/4 stars), we’re fixing to make a case that the 2004 sequel, ANACONDAS: HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID deserves similar plaudits. Not as a good movie mind you, oh no, but as an unintentionally bad one with eminent entertainment value. Sure the sequel hasn’t the luminous star power of the first (Stoltz, Voight, Cube, J.Lo, Owen Wilson, etc.), and it has far more cartoonish CGI, but much of what is good about the original holds true in BLOOD ORCHID…namely the steamy jungle atmosphere, some decent blood-soaked snake action and a rash of laughably bad decisions. In fact, buy it or don’t, but BLOOD ORCHID has a higher metascore rating than the original!

So yeah, join us as we make a case for ANACONDAS: HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID as an overlooked F*ckin’ Black Sheep of a movie!

It starts with the setup. One of the great things about BLOOD ORCHID, taken from the original, is how little time is wasted before we’re taken to the river. A quick intro and corporate scene in NYC gives us the gist. A team of scientists must trek to the jungle of Borneo to procure a rare species of Blood Orchid, which has the pharmaceutical properties akin to the fountain of youth. It prevents aging. Here’s the issue. With only two weeks left in bloom, the team must wade through the muck and mire of anaconda mating season to reach the remote locale where the flowers grow. A tall order indeed!

Enter Bill (Johnny Messer), a Michael Fassbender/Michael Vartan hybrid, Sam (KaDee Strickland), Gordon Mitchell (Morris Chestnut), Dr. Byron (Matthew Marsden), Dr. Douglas (Nick Gonzalez), Cole (Eugene Byrd), Tran (Karl Yune) and Gail (Salli Richardson) – a ragtag team of mostly unlikable caricatures we cannot wait to see die in a brutally masticated fashion. Actually, the most likable character is a spider monkey called Kong. They all board the river barge and head down the Borneo river. But before getting swallowed one by one, their boat gets destroyed after cascading down a waterfall. They also witness Bill fight off a crocodile, saving Gail’s life, before the croc’s corpse is vitiated by a giant snake.

The closer they traverse into the heart of the jungle, the more perilous the journey becomes. Also, ulterior motives come to light. Dr. Byron is a venal traitor, even more calculating and nefarious than Jon Voight’s ponytailed Paraguayan river rat, as he plans to pilfer the orchids for himself and kill everyone else. It’s one aspect of the film that outdoes the original, the level of inner turmoil within the group, which compounds the conflict of being surrounded by gargantuan man-swallowing snakes. In other words, the snakes aren’t the only villains, a wrinkle that adds complexity to the story in a way that gives it some dimension.

One of the other things I really dig about BLOOD ORCHID is the order in which people die. It’s as if the filmmaker knew exactly who was least likable, who we wanted to see die first, and accommodated us in full. That smirking Rico Suave douche-bag Dr. Douglas for example, trying to unleash his own pants-anaconda on sexy Sam, gets everything he deserves and more, and does so not a second too soon. Now, I do think the grating annoyance of Cole droned on too long, but come on, with lines of gold like the following: “You telling me there’s a snake orgy out in the jungle?” such an oversight can be forgiven.

Another superior aspect of the film, or at least on par with the OG, is the nasty finale. Granted, the overuse of CG here renders the film little more than a SyFy MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID shite-show, but the amount of lethal carnage is far greater than the end of the 1997 film. The understandable choice to try to shroud the bad CG in a nighttime shoot also tends to muddy the staging, but by and large, the final 15 minutes or so deliver exorbitantly exciting anaconda action. Take poor Mitchell and Cole for examples, these dudes get wrapped, squeezed, tossed, thrashed, crushed, chewed, swallowed and gorily spit the f*ck out!

All this to say, yes, for its intended aim, namely a big-budget creature-feature B-movie sequel, ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID hits the bulls-eye more often than it not. It’s hard to imagine, given the cult-like status the original film has ascended to over the past 20 years, despite being a pretty poor overall endeavor, why the sequel didn’t follow suit. Perhaps it needs more time. Because honestly, BLOOD ORCHID is the superior screenplay on paper. It has more shading in terms of conflict. But because it lacks the star power of the original, because it leans too heavily on CG in the third act, BLOOD ORCHID has become a forgotten F*ckin Black Sheep!


Extra Tidbit: BLOOD ORCHID grossed north of $30 at the U.S. box-office.
Source: AITH



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