Trivia Matthew Marsden first hit our collective cultural consciousness starring in Coronation Street.
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Anacondas - The Hunt For The Blood Orchid (2004)
27th Aug 04
This horror-thriller sequel is set deep in the jungles of Borneo where the rare and mythical blood orchid may hold the key to producing an elixir of life. Cue a demographically diverse bunch of gung-ho scientists with dollar signs in their eyes happy to risk becoming snake food in their quest for a fountain-of-youth discovery.
Not exactly a long-awaited follow-up, but Anacondas proves to be almost as enjoyable as 1997's Anaconda and still for all the wrong reasons. Responsible for many episodes of The X Files, Freddy’s Nightmares and Halloween 4:The Return of Michael Myers, seasoned TV director Dwight Little reverts to the horror genre via recent mainstream credits that include Free Willy 2. OK so this is a low-budget Hollywood fairground ride, but the question is: If you like cheesy popcorn B movies, are the tongue-in-cheek computer-engineered thrills on offer here worth admission?
This sequel may not feature the likes of J-Lo, Owen Wilson or Ice Cube (and Jon Voight’s infamous sneer is sorely missed) but this time it’s a whole gang of anaconda poised to eat their way through a cast of relative unknowns that includes the exotically monikered Morris Chestnut. The aforementioned scientists are lead by Matthew Marsden (Black Hawk Down) who manages a good take on the English villain in a Hollywood film cliché.
His team arrive in Borneo in the middle of monsoon season (look it makes the CGI easier to implement – remember Godzilla? Yeah I’d rather not go there too) with just a week to find the orchid while it’s still in bloom. In Jurassic Park style we’ve already witnessed the dangers of the jungle in a hectic intro where even the headhunting natives can’t escape the anaconda’s lethal chokehold. Meanwhile, Marsden’s crew can’t find a boatman crazy enough to take them up river.
Enter our hero – played by Johnny Messner – looking like Patrick Swayze without the mullet. He’s an ex special ops killing machine who’s “seen too many bad things” so dropped out Colonel Kurtz style to live a lonely life in the jungle. Shot on location in Fiji the film snakes down river like a sanitized version of Deliverance. Any threat of being buggered by inbred woodsmen is replaced by cut-aways to the ever looming presence of the anaconda in all their menacing, blood orchid chewing, performance-enhanced glory. They sound just like Olympic athletes.
Before things take a turn for the worse (and our intrepid crew ignore the sage-like “Never get out of the boat” wisdom of Chef in Apocalypse Now) the skipper saves a boffin damsel from the clutches of an alligator. After he dispenses with the saw-toothed lizard - Tarzan style - said damsel gasps, “Either that’s the bravest or the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen!” Cue the laughter as he replies with the witty quip, “It’s a fine line…”
It doesn’t take long for the anaconda to hex the boat. After it’s done a nifty job trashing the propeller, the jungle cruiser and it’s occupants hang on for dear life braving a nosedive over a waterfall. This leaves the orchid searchers at the mercy of the wild and they are forced to make the rest of their journey on foot.
The expedition Doctor is the first to succumb. After all wading through the river humming the theme from Jaws is always gonna be a precursor to a sticky end. And in this scenario, kinda like the little boy from Spielberg’s big fish movie, Doc gets dragged across the water and then thrown into the air to provide target practice for snake jaws. Ever optimistic, Captain America tries to calm the troops, “The odds of running into another one like that are astronomical.”
Little coaxes tension from the cast as Marsden and Messner go head to head – the scientist turning nasty in pursuit of his dream while the captain warns, “Everything gets eaten out here. It’s the jungle!”
And perhaps that is the film’s real problem. Budget restrictions mean that we don’t get to see enough of old snake eyes and have to make do with a supporting cast of spiders, leeches and the ‘threat’ of carnage as opposed to a smorgasbord of the real thing. Sadly, the FX budget appears to have been blown on Little’s ‘anaconda orchid orgy’ money shot that gives the backdrop to the film’s final showdown.
It never quite scales the cult heights of its predecessor so it’s a shame a satisfactory crescendo couldn’t be applied to what is a guiltily satisfying – like eating a Pot Noodle – by-the-numbers suspense flick.