- Jennifer Lopez as Terri Flores
- Ice Cube as Danny Rich
- Jon Voight as Paul Serone
- Eric Stoltz as Dr. Steven Cale
- Jonathan Hyde as Warren Westridge
- Owen Wilson as Gary Dixon
- Kari Wuhrer as Denise Kalberg
- Vincent Castellanos as Mateo
A gleefully nasty and exciting horror/adventure, Anaconda isn’t going to win any prizes for superlative film making or emotive writing. But that isn’t what the film is all about, it’s about surrendering to the gloriously tongue in cheek horror and on that score it registers at a high rating.
Terri Flores is a director of documentaries who thinks she’s nearing a big break. Her latest expedition is down the Amazon River to find proof that a legendary Indian tribe known as The People of the Mist has not vanished and is far from forgotten. Joining her on a boat down the river as part of her film crew is her anthropologist love interest Dr. Steven Cale, good friend and cameraman Danny Rich, the snobby English narrator Warren Westridge, sound engineer Gary, his production manager girlfriend and Mateo, the captain of the boat. Along the way in their journey, they pick up Paul Serone, a mysterious Paraguayan man who is stranded on the embankment and makes his living capturing snakes. He claims to have knowledge over where the fabled tribe is and travels with them down a new route to where he says they reside. Serone manages to put everyone on edge with his unusual ways and slimy appearance, most of all Cale who catches him out on a number of lies. Yet before he can act upon these suspicions, he is stung by a wasp that gets caught in his swimming gear when he’s sorting out something under the boat and as a result, he is rendered unconscious. The odious and crazed Serone takes charge of the boat and his true diabolical motives are quickly revealed to all. He is forcefully using the crew as bait so he can hunt the famed and very dangerous 40-foot anaconda. And sure enough, the giant snake is soon on the attack, crushing anyone in its way before swallowing them whole as its next meal. As Serone slips further into psychosis in his hopes of capturing the predator, it’s up to Terri and the others to fight against the giant snake as it picks through the crew very quickly, leaving a blood soaked carnage in its wake.
Luis Llosa’s direction is efficient and while nothing particularly special, still retains a feeling of suspense and adventure. Llosa understands that the material within Anaconda is not meant to be taken seriously and he acquits himself well in this respect, while still giving some good gross out scares and disquieting deaths. A misty visual style, capturing the Amazon Rain forest setting and its dangerous splendour as well as frenetic camerawork helps the film go at a quick pace that keeps chills and dark laughs coming thick and fast. Chief among these moments is the creepy shot of the approaching anaconda slowly digesting a victim that we can see the impression of the terrified face and an attack scene of the snake snatching one of the crew as they jump from a waterfall. It must be said that the script is rather simple and dialogue nothing revelatory in terms of character development, but with so many thrills going on, does it really matter? Now it must be said that the main antagonist of the film the killer anaconda is something people are divided on when it comes to the film. The creature is rendered through both animatronics and CGI, and it must be said that the execution is more than a bit hokey. If they’d gotten rid of the CGI it could have been more memorable, but when the animatronics is on show, as ropy and often laughable as it is, it adds a B-movie quality to this already slightly goofy film. While Anaconda is an exercise in tongue in cheek horror, it doesn’t scrimp on the suspense and scares, brought out through a very good score that heavily features drums growing quicker as the giant snake makes its presence known in a very threatening way.
Jennifer Lopez makes for a grounded and very tough lead in the film, doing battle as much with her smarts as her fists. She works well alongside Ice Cube, who plays the smart ass and sarcastic cameraman Danny. Jon Voight turns in a performance of extravagant hamminess as the utterly maniacal Serone, who has no qualms about using his rescuers as potential food for the eponymous snake. Sporting a shifty ponytail and dodgy attempt at a Paraguayan accent, Voight’s performance sails over these questionable aspects with evil glee and serviceable menace that is just right for this kind of movie. And he really knows how to turn on the slimy factor and lather it up to levels of psychopathic overdrive. Eric Stoltz has something of a heroic nature about him in the beginning but when his character is incapacitated, he is is required to do very little. There is also of note an amusing Jonathan Hyde as the pompous actor clearly out of his depth when it comes to survival because of his fussy ways. The rest of the cast, consisting of Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer and Vincent Castellanos are purely in the film to be snake bait for the ferocious anaconda.
A somewhat daft but very exciting and thrilling horror, Anaconda if seen in the right way is as a slithering creature feature in a B-movie style makes for a good way to kill an hour or so and doesn’t require nary a speck of brain power.