Schlock Value, Issue #3: Anaconda (1997)

Happy Birthday to me! Yes ladies and gentle freaks, this tired dog has made it another year. Twenty eight might not be quite the time to book a seat on the express train to hell (because I’ll be fucked if the big man’s letting me through the pearly ones upstairs) — but it sure feels like the new fifty. Alas, there’s no time to sleep. Besides, I’m a giving sort. A modern day, cinema consuming Santa if you will; if Santa wore tired jeans, band shirts from the 90’s and backwards caps un-ironically. Don’t judge me, I’m a child of the pre-millenium, we still looked at boobs in magazines back then, and they were rad. Besides, let’s be real for a second, yeah? The 90’s were fucking awesome. From flannel shirts to shitty hair cuts, Wes Craven to inexplicable close up shots of Rose McGowens nipples in Scream. The 90’s god above also blessed us unworthy peasants with the joy of stupid as fuck killer animal movies. It’s true and you know it. Horror in general had one too many whiskeys before trying to play hid the python and left whatever sad coed it took home with little more than a pink of flesh to fondle, it was that limp when it came to going hardcore. The dreaded influx of PG that has stuck around to this day like the dark patch of molding two month old turd hiding in the ceramic fold of your toilet. It’s hard to get that shit off, nah’mean? But, when slashers and spookers bent over to receive the angry humping of the MPAA and parent groups, killer animal movies stepped out of the age of black and white and five dollar hand puppets and announced “Fuck y’all! Let’s split some bitches from crotch to hairline and back on down to asscrack (for good measure)”. Bodies being ripped apart, more severed arms and heads floating out of nowhere to give a good ol jump scare, and stunt casting the entire film with actors that make you go “wait…why though?”, y’know, before it was cool.
I mean, they were pretty fucking dump, and pretty fucking universally as well, but ohhhhhh maaaaan were they pretty fucking fun.
And one such movie is none other than the original killer snake masterpiece of ham acting, ridiculous casting, and the most fake looking but absolutely, undeniably badass animatronic giant snake…the one and only, Anaconda.

Anaconda’s the kinda of film that’s even better with age. I mean besides the obviously fake snake looking even more obviouser and a treat to laugh at every time it jumps out makes you eep out a baby scream. Years later on and you get to appreciate that the opening stinger includes a much weedier Danny Trejo getting snacked on like a tequila soaked lunchbox. Bless that man and bless this movie for having the genius forethought to cast the motherfucker.

Not content with one recognisable face, the flick moves on quickly to introduce no less than Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson and Ice ‘fucking’ Cube — who basically plays the role of himself with a different name…y’know…different to the already different name he already had…whatever, it’s fucking Ice Cube, okay. He’s being all Ice Cube like, complete with I’m from the streets attitude and dressing like he just stepped out of the recording studio and into the Amazonian jungle to hunt snakes.

Our perpetually good looking troupe of adventurers nab themselves a boat ride down river, keen to shoot a documentary on a local tribe…or something like that, I dunno, it’s all kinda dropped soon after and considering they travel a considerable distance and don’t ever run into the damn people they originally set out to find makes you wonder if they were ever really there or if it was all just a cleaver plot device to set the film up…yeah nah, I’m sure it’s not that. Seriously though, having done just enough research to wax poetic some ham fisted exposition to explain why they’re there, but having clearly done fuck research into how to do it given their shocked and confused reactions to bumps in the road (river) every five minutes; their purpose is about as convincing as the actors in their roles. Except, EXCEPT, for Jon Voight as the ever present snake expect they stumble up on trapped in a tropical storm on the river, who manages to juggle sneering, snarling and leering at good ol Jenny from the block every time she stands still, and in general playing up the “is he a good guy? Is he a bad guy” part to the nth degree. Give the man a scar across his eye and a hook for a hand and you’d have deep fried perfection right there.

Once coming across Bear Grilles Voight, the film kicks off moment after moment to showcase how rough and ready their new companion is — from cutting a water beetle out of Eric Stoltz throat to blowing up a snake wall — dude’s got enough survival skills to start his own reality TV show. One of their own goes and deepthroats a massive fuck off beetle — that Voight goes and cuts out of his throat like it’s a casual Sunday — and leaves them having to turn back to town before they’re left with a fleshy paperweight.

Going back up river against the current proves more difficult a feat than getting down it, in steps Voight who takes them along a shortcut on the river — because that’s ever been a promising idea — and after their boat captain goes missing it becomes increasingly more obvious that the mysterious, leering snake trapper they’ve never met before may just have an ulterior motive. Shock horror. Who saw that coming.
Turns out Voight is on the hunt for a big ass snake to add to his collection of beard growing, steak by the tonne consuming, badass manly stories and takes over the boat with the help of turncoat Owen Wilson — who even throws his girlfriend under the proverbial boat for the chance of making millions off the back of capturing a live Anaconda. Snake bros before hoes, right? Actually, can we just take a second to appreciate that Owen Wilson’s in this thing playing a wannabe snake hunter. The Robin to Voights Batman. The only thing, the only thing that could have made it more perfecter would be a healthy dose of Bill Paxton — the patient saint of masterful stunt casting, character acting, cannon fodder.

Karma comes swiftly and 30 feet long. They commandeer the shit out of the S.S. Dinner Bell. Night sets in and under the guard of Wilsons “look, I’m a big boy now” hunting rifle. Voight decides to fish for the fucking Anaconda. Managing to hook the scaly bastard before it rains an ever loving shitstorm on the motley crew. Ripping the boat apart, spitting up a monkeys half digested body and crushing the badass out of Wilson. Whittled down but no less Voightless they continue on a ways before the crew come up with a plan to take back the boat, and by plan I mean Jennifer Lopez dons her best sweat stained singlet and sexiest pair of cargo pants and seduces their gravel voiced dictator so Ice Cube can charge in and go Compton on his ass with a 9 iron.

Balance is restored, everyone’s safe, heading on home swapping memories of the good ol’ first world amenities they’ll soon be reunited with all the while sharing a totally not forced sitcom-esque communal laugh together...roll credits.

Yeah, nah. They hit the worlds tiniest sandbank near a waterfall, stopping them in their tracks and the Anaconda wrecks shop on them again. Voight takes the distraction to goad Owen Wilson jilted (now) widow — who I’m sure has a name, but isn’t Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, or Ice Cube so apparently didn’t deserve enough writing to make her interesting enough to have a name worth remembering — into trying to kill him so he can pull some next level Chung Lee shit and snap her neck with his legs. All while seated with his hands tied to the ships mast. I mean…yeah, he just killed one of the good guys, and yeah, he’s kinda responsible for her husband becoming a soon to be log of snake poop floating the amazon river like a skeleton shaped, fleshy bath bomb…but maaaan, could they have made this dude any more badass?

The crew juggle a tussle with Voight and blowing a hole through the Anacondas face. Knocking the lesser out with a tranq dart and leaving him to float face down in the river — spoiler alert, he ain’t dead — and moving on to find an old riverside outpost filled with fuel and a whole lotta people sized left overs. Voight rises out from his watery would be grave to trap Lopez and T, using them as bait to capture the Anaconda in what is the dumbest plan ever conceived by a certified, grade A badass — what is this master plan, you ask? A net.

This thing his basically king shit of the Amazon, single handedly devouring everything it crosses paths with. It’s faster than the speed of fucking light and is basically a 30 foot, dick shaped bicep with teeth, but hey a rope net will do the trick. Aye, good job bucko. When that genius fucking plan goes tits up, ol man Voight tries to run like a bitch, gets scooped up by our scaly villain and swallowed whole — complete with shot from inside the Anacondas gullet as Voight gets his come uppance. Only to show up again a couple of minutes later when it spits him back up at a fleeing Lopez. I have no idea if that’s an actual thing that Anacondas do, but it gives us the gift of Voughts slightly digested, somewhat skinless half dead body actually winking at Lopez before she scales (ha! I got jokes) a smoke stack, trapping the snake and roasting it like bayou barbecue.

Fun fact #261: When you grow up in the country, and are as dumb a kid as I was. Catching snakes and roasting them over a fire while camping with friends; that’s some tasty shit right there.
Disclaimer…I am in now way shape or form an individual you should be replicating the actions of. I once got my friends at Uni to set my jacket sleeve on fire because I’d never been set on fire before (caught in a rip and attacked by sharks, knocked out by a lightening strike that hit two feet from me in the middle of a storm, rode my bike off a cliff, and shot twice…but never set on fire.)
…I have never claimed to be a smart man.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the wrap up. They torch the Anaconda. It comes back — all angry, and toasty, and deliciously crispy — and Ice Cube buries an axe in its head. The tribe, y’know, the one they came to document in the first place, they show up to just kinda say hi and then everyone kinda just sails off into the sunset…like, literally. It just kinda stops. There’s not even an Anaconda themed rap by Ice Cube to send the end credits home. Deep Blue Sea had one. Tsk, shame…shame.

Anaconda’s pretty much one of those guilty pleasure gems, the purest form of popcorn flavoured junk food cinema. Dumb, dumb, just dumb set piece after set piece to showcase how many ways someone can get their arses chomped by a big ass fucking snake…and for that, it’s a work of art.
They don’t make killer animal movies like Anaconda any more, and that’s not old man nostalgia, they genuinely don’t. There’s some CG snake work at play, but for the most part it’s a legit animatronic, real as fuck shit fucking up everyones day. It looks hokey as dicks, but good god is it beautiful…the snake, not dicks…I mean, dicks can be beautiful. Mine would place a solid third if I do say so myself…anyway, point is, ain’t no way you’re gonna get this shot…

…in a killer animal movie made these days. It’s a sad enough reality to bring a tear to the eye. So pop in a VHS, bowl up some popcorn and watch the shit out of this thing, giant killer animal movies don’t come much better. It’s so big you’ll need both hands.

P.S. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a BTS shot that looked this badass…

Real(ish) as fuck, fucking snake, yo!

P.P (ha, pee pee) .S. There’s three sequels to this fucking thing. Five if you count (psst…we don’t) the cross-over they did with Lake Placid in Anaconda vs. Lake Placid. At least two of those films are actually as solid as this one…but that’s another story, for another day.

P.P.P.S. The sequel is called Anacondas because, shock horror, there’s more than one Anaconda spilling red on the heroes of that film. But since we see Jennifer Lopez blow a big ol fucking hole through the back end of the Anacondas face and then in the next scene the thing looks fine and dandy, it’s fair to assume the one we see in the last scene is a brand spanking new Anaconda. So technically, this one has the AnacondaS, but hey, who’s counting…certainly not the screenwriters.

In the next shit-tastic issue of Schlock Value, Issue #4: Troll!
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