“A “National Geographic” film crew is taken hostage by an insane hunter, who forces them along on his quest to capture the world’s largest – and deadliest – snake.”

Director: Luis Llosa
Writers: Hans Bauer, Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.
Staring: Jon Voight, Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz, Ice Cube, Jonathan Hyde, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, Vincent Castellanos
Release Date: April 11, 1997

What. A. Fucking. Movie. Anaconda (1997) was the final installment of bad monster movie week for Emma and I. We were on vacation in Florida with a couple of our friends, and the four of us huddled around the television to watch high-quality movies like The Meg (2018), Crawl (2019) and of course, Anaconda. Did we end on the worst made movie of the group? Probably. On an objective level, Anaconda is not a good movie, but on a fuck-it level, Anaconda is a fun, outrageous, memorable experience.

Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) is a director of a nature documentary under the somewhat egotistical eyes of Dr. Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz). These two are also romantically involved, but that doesn’t really matter. Flores and Cale are leading a video production crew that consists of camera man Danny Rich (Ice Cube), sound technician Gary Dixon (Owen Wilson), production manager Denise Kalberg (Keri Wuhrer), and financer Warren Westridge (Jonathan Hyde). It is a rag tag group on individuals, and the vibe only gets stranger.

Local ship captain Mateo (Vincent Castellanoes) stops the ship and picks up a stranded individual by the name of Paul Serone (Jon Voight). This man’s job is to catch snakes, and he is on a quest to capture one thing and one thing only. The Anaconda.

The crew agrees to let Serone on board because he promises to know the location of a hidden tribe that is going to be at the forefront of nature documentary. We, the audience, are shown a nefarious glance between Serone and Mateo and there is obviously something afoot. As Anaconda unfurls itself, the true nature of Serone’s personality and motivations become illuminated. The stress on the boat among the humans is suffocating enough, but when the Anaconda finds the crew, it becomes a matter of life and death.

Sure, the snake is cool. It looks ridiculous and it makes sounds that no normal snake ever would. But the real monster of this movie is Paul Serone. Jon Voight absolutely steals the show. The definition of a show stopper. He sports a ridiculous accent that is only matched by an even more preposterous rat’s tail. He has lines that are outstandingly outlandish and his disregard for human life is on a Machiavellian level.

Vincent Castellanos as Mateo and John Voight as Serone

If you haven’t watched Anaconda in a while, you have to watch it just for Voight. I hadn’t seen it since I was an undergrad in college and I can attest I did no appreciate this man’s effort when I first saw it. In a movie that has a lot of plot holes, character tropes and questionable editing/pacing decisions, Voight holds it all together. He is the moldy, stinky glue that’s holding the entire project together.

So Voight is great. Everyone else? They got a paycheck.

This is very early in Lopez’s acting career. This is four years before The Wedding Planner (2001) and five years before Made In Manhattan (2002). Lopez is gorgeous, but she has god given beauty working for her there. There is one fantastic scene in the movie she is directing Rich’s camera movements. It is one scene to establish her as a visual artist. It is the classic “we need to show her directing” comment in the writer’s room brought to life.

Jennifer Lopez as Terri

To quote Emma: “What is Ice Cube doing in this?” Ice Cube being in Anaconda is for diversity and attention. He is an incredibly talented man, and he has some of the best comedic moments in the movie. But his casting is so obvious as a quota filler. He probably agreed to be in the Anaconda, and it probably helped it immensely, that he had an album released that year, Featuring…Ice Cube.

Spoilers for a movie that came out in 1997, but Danny Trejo is in Anaconda for about 30 seconds. Before the movie started I looked it up on IMDB and I asked out loud, “Danny Trejo is in this? I do not remember him at all.” Turns out there is a good reason for that. If you blink at the start of the movie, you miss him. He gets killed with one out-of-the-blue slow-motion shot and BAM one of the Hollywood’s best character actors is no more. Hindsight being 20/20, the better casting would have been casting Trejo in the Mateo role just so viewers decades down the road have another recognizable face to latch onto.

Eric Stoltz is unconscious for half of the movie. Owen Wilson gets to do his patented voice, and his death is absolutely outstanding. When the body Dixon floats above the water while being rolled over by the Anaconda…yea I let out an audible laugh.

Anaconda is ridiculous. It is just so silly. Not much about it is worth remembering, except for Voight and his glorious rat’s tail. What Anaconda did do was pull on a thread in my mind that asked the question: What makes a monster movie? And what makes it good?

In my mind, it has to be a movie that has nothing to do with awards talk of heaping critical praise. It has to be self aware to what it is. Entertainment has to be its main focus, followed only be traces of ridiculousness and a degree of suspension of disbelief. A bit a David versus Goliath component. Perhaps in inclusion of a myth or legend could make a Monster movie even better.Constrictor

Couldn’t help but notice during Anaconda that there is no mention of venom at all. Nothing. Turns out that constrictors are not venomous but they do have fangs. The movie did get get that right.

And for the record, Emma’s quick thoughts on the whole monster week experience. Her favorite watch was The Meg, and the best movie of the bunch was Crawl. Anaconda had her biggest laugh when Serone winked at Flores after being spit out by the snake.


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