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Movies Kelly Parks Review by
Kelly Parks
Anaconda
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ANACONDA - 1997
Columbia Pictures
Rated: Argentina, Spain: 13 / Australia: M / Finland: K-14 / Germany: 16 / Norway, Sweden, UK: 15 / Peru: 14 / Portugal: M/12 / USA: PG-13

Do you have a thing about snakes? I don’t. I always thought they were kind of cool. I’ve held a large boa constrictor and even had a pet garter snake once. But these were small snakes. Even the boa was only about five feet long. Once, in a reptile house at the zoo, I saw a truly large snake. It was an anaconda, about fifteen feet long. When I saw it, lazily coiled but staring right at me, some ancient alarm began ringing in the back of my head. I knew it only saw me as food.

Luis Llosa^ (THE SPECIALIST, SNIPER) directed ANACONDA and Hans Bauer (KOMODO), Jim Cash, and Jack Epps, Jr. served as the writing staff.

^
Director Luis Losa made 2 movies on the Amazon river before this, both in 1993.
FIRE ON THE AMAZON
with Sandra Bullock and Craig Scheffer
and
The Blair Witch Project
800 LEAGUES DOWN THE AMAZON
with Daphne Zuniga,
Barry Bostwick,
and
Adam Baldwin.


*
Hmmmm, a film crew in danger in the wilderness. What if they're never heard from again, but their film is found? That makes most of you think of

Cannibal Holocaust
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, I know, but for me this movie invoked a series of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST
flashbacks. Either you know what I’m talking about or you don’t.

The story opens deep in the Amazon. A terrified man (Danny Trejo: FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) runs into a riverside shack and frantically tries to contact someone on the radio. Then something large beneath the building begins pounding it's way through the floorboards. The man runs and is clearly being pursued. He pulls a gun and fires a few shots but the pursuit continues. The man climbs to the top of a large pole and has nowhere left to go. He glances at his pursuer one more time, then puts his gun to his head and kills himself.

We cut to the Ariau Jungle Hotel, still deep in the Amazon but with electricity and indoor plumbing. Here, Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez: THE CELL) works on her laptop and looks sexy in her slip. She's visited by Professor Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz: THE FLY 2, THE PROPHECY). Conversation makes it clear that Cale is leading an expedition up the Amazon to look for a legendary tribe called Shirishama. Terri is a videographer who's coming along to make a documentary about the voyage.

The next day the expedition assembles at the dock. The boat's captain is a local named Mateo (Vincent Castellanos: MULHOLLAND DR.) and Terri's film crew consists of Danny (Ice Cube: GHOSTS OF MARS) the cameraman, Gary (Owen Wilson: THE HAUNTING) the sound guy, Denise (Kari Wuhrer: EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS) the production assistant and celebrity documentary narrator Warren Westridge (Jonathon Hyde: THE MUMMY [1990s-2000s - all]). Everyone is eager and excited. Cale has been into the jungle many times and seems a capable leader.

But that wouldn’t be much of a story, would it?

Things get interesting when they come across the disabled boat of Paul Sarone (Jon Voight: TOMB RAIDER, TRANSFORMERS). Sarone is a very colorful character. A former priest, or so he claims, who now makes a living catching big snakes for zoos and private collectors, his odd accent and charismatic personality makes him the center of attention.

At first the plan is to drop Sarone at the next village, but when he hears they’re looking for the Shirishama he claims to know how to find them. Cale doubts Sarone's knowledge so Sarone drops the subject, but soon after Cale has an odd accident. A deadly wasp gets into the professor's scuba gear and he nearly dies. In fact he would have died if not for a quick tracheotomy performed by Sarone.*

With Cale unconscious and injured, Terri is now in charge. She decides they'd best get Cale to a hospital and Sarone recommends a short cut that coincidentally takes them down the river route he recommended as the place to find the Shirishama. Terri doesn't trust Sarone but goes along.

Now Sarone makes the transition from colorful to menacing as he gradually takes over. The force of his personality is enough that he even recruits an ally. Gary wants a cut of the million dollars Sarone says a live giant anaconda is worth. And speaking of anaconda, it's here that we finally see the Freudian nightmare. Even the over confident Sarone is taken aback by its size and ferocity. I wasn't quite as taken aback as I was hoping I'd be – the special effects are okay but not great.

Regardless, the hunters quickly become the hunted as the angry reptile pursues these trespassers. Exactly how Sarone intended to transport a living monster isn't clear but discussing details like this has left me hungry for a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
This isn't a mutant, giant snake, it's just a really big anaconda and snakes this big, although very rare, do exist. And it is true that there have been many recorded cases of large snakes like this eating people, so I have no objection to any of that. But snakes are reptiles and like most reptiles they have very slow metabolisms. A big snake like this will typically eat one big meal a month. So after it ate the first guy on the boat it would have curled up somewhere warm and taken a long nap.

Continued at ScienceMoment/Anaconda.

The snake is kind of cool, but Jon Voight steals the movie. Sarone is a smart and dangerous bad guy but he has depth and an odd morality of his own. He has no hesitation about murder, but he does try to avoid it if he can. He even gives last rights to someone whose death he caused, much to the disbelief of the other passengers. And he also earned ANACONDA an extra shriek girl, bringing its total to three.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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