Does anyone remember those old jungle serials? How about the Tarzan films of the 1930s and 1940s starring Johnny Weissmuller? What about the Tarzan TV series of the 1970s with Ron Ely?
Well all of these in some shape or another came to mind as I watched the low-budget horror sequel, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid is a sequel to the 1997 thriller, Anaconda, which starred Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, and Jon Voight. The film solidified J.Lo's acting career after coming off the huge critical success of Selena, and the film also resurrected Jon Voight's struggling acting career. Voight's over-the-top performance as an insane "Ahab-like" hunter is still talked about today.
Director Dwight H. Little (Rapid Fire and Murder at 1600) takes the helm to the sequel which finds a group of scientists hacking and slashing their way through a Borneo rainforest in search of the mythical "Blood Orchid", which is supposed to contain the pharmaceutical equivalent to the "Fountain to Youth". The group hires river-master Bill Johnson (Johnny Messner) to lead them on their expedition.
The expedition begins to fall apart when Johnson is bribed to take a riskier route than advised and the river boat ends up crashing over a waterfall. Now the party must find a way to walk out of the rainforest, but unbeknownst to them, it also happens to be anaconda mating season.
There is no better word to describe Anacondas than "cheese". It is your typical B-grade monster film with all the clichés that go with it. What it has going for it is that it is also a lot of fun.
The antics of macho river captain Messner and his passengers are fun and thrilling when they are embroiled in a life and death struggle. But when the film relies on dialogue and acting from the "motley crew", then the film hits a snag. The acting scenes feel like they came from a film-school project.
I kind of liked the performance of Messner's Tarzan-esque captain, but he was really only impressive in the action sequences. Uncannily, Messner was also one of the stars of the recently cancelled WB series Tarzan.
I also really enjoyed the smarmy performances of Salli Richardson-Whitfield, who in a lot of scenes reminded me a lot of J. Lo from the first film. Richardson-Whitfield's biggest claim to fame was that she was the voice of Elisa Maza in the critically-acclaimed animated series, Gargoyles, for three seasons.
As stand-outs go, Messner and Richardson-Whitfield are probably the best bets.
I had really hoped that in this cast of mainly no-names, that there would be a break-out star or at least a credible one who could save the picture's more dialogue-laden scenes. But there wasn't really one among them.
Don't get me wrong, I love cheese and I also love jungle/Tarzan films. There are a lot of great moments in this film from Messner's roll with a croc to a harrowing escape from an underground lair. The film is a lot of fun in so many ways, but bad in so many others. But the truth of the matter is, I also enjoyed it. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.