Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)
Bill Johnson: It's mating season.
Cole Burris: What? So your telling me there's some snake orgy in the jungle?- Johnny Messner, Eugene Byrd
Stars: Johnny Messner, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Matthew Marsden, KaDee Strickland, Morris Chestnut
Other Stars: Karl Yune, Eugene Byrd, Nicholas Gonzalez, Andy Anderson, Nicholas Hope
Director: Dwight Little
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence, scary images and some language
Run Time: 01h:36m:37s
Release Date: 2004-12-21
DVD ReviewAside from big snakes, the only real connection director Dwight Little's Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid has with 1997s Anaconda is the presence of screenwriter Hans Bauer. Instead of a sequel, this is actually a standalone story, but the surface similarities (remote jungle, dangerous river, dilapidated boat, biiig snakes, expendable victims) are all present and accounted for, and Little delivers the umpteenth version of the film about a group of isolated characters doing battle against some oversized creature, with all of the necessary jump scares and action scenes included.
It's off to the jungles of Borneo for a small group of pharmaceutical company explorers, on a mission to find Perennia Immortalis (aka The Blood Orchid), a rare flower that lies dormant for seven years and blooms for only six months. What makes finding the Blood Orchid so important is that it is believed to contain a mysterious chemical that will prolong cellular life (your body, not your phone), which one character refers to as "the pharmaceutical equivalent to the fountain of youth"—in other words, it is worth billions and billions of dollars. With only two weeks left in the flower's bloom cycle, the bickering research team has to quickly head up-river after renting the predictably rundown boat with the obligatory hard-drinking captain (Johnny Messner), but it seems no one is aware of the nest of humongous anacondas.
I was probably one of the six people who saw this during its brief theatrical run (my daughter Sam being one of the others), and I went in with extremely low expectations. This is not landmark action filmmaking by any means, but I'll admit genuine surprise at having enjoyed it as much as I did, even with Little's overuse of cute monkey reaction shots—though Sam will loudly disagree with me on that point. The cast is extremely watchable, with Salli Richardson-Whitfield channeling Pam Grier as cold-as-ice Gail or Matthew Marsden's ominous Jack, but in the end they're all not much more than potential snake food with easily identifiable personalities.
There is a whole lot less snake action here than I would have expected, and Little and Bauer weave most of the movie as a straight-forward jungle flick, but that's not necessarily a slam. The snake CG effects are better than average, and bits like the overhead shot of the team wading through the river while the unseen anaconda loops in between them are especially fun. Some of the sequences, like a boat crashing over waterfalls, are particularly well done and effective, and as a result I never felt like the script was padded with the usual expository filler and unneeded character development in-between CG snake attacks. There was enough jungle exploring and danger (and a subplot involving a poisonous CG spider), that even without the big snakes it managed to more than hold my interest for the duration.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||2.40:1 - Widescreen||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes||no|
Image Transfer Review: Columbia TriStar has released this one with both widescreen and fullscreen transfers on the same side of the disc. The preferred option is understandably the widescreen version, presented in an anamorphic 2.40:1 aspect ratio, because on comparison, the fullscreen cramps the action sequences dramatically. Don't let perceived B-movie stature of this one fool you, because the transfer itself is strong, featuring rich black levels and lifelike skintones. Colors retain an intentionally muted tone during the bulk of film, with dark greens and browns being the dominant themes, but the transfer reproduces these quite well.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The moderately aggressive 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix delivers when it needs to, providing a steady amount of surround activity and directional movement needed to make a jungle action flick tolerable. Sequences like the big going-over-the-falls crisis will wake up your sub with some brief rumble, as well. Dialogue is clear and presentable, anchored firmly in the center channel.
A French 5.1 mix is also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Hitch, Are We There Yet?, Breakin' All The Rules
4 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Extras Review: Extras are minimal, but just about right for a film about giant snakes. Special Effects Toolbox: Creating Anacondas (10m:38s) takes a brief peek at creating the title creatures, and there are glimpse of some interesting preproduction footage where the actors are reacting to nothing, as well as some rough snake animation and in-between, comments from cast and crew about the technical rigors of the shoot. This was short, and we've seen content like this before countless times, but it was a fun watch, regardless.
There are also four Deleted Scenes (08m:46s), available in nonanamorphic widescreen. Two are variations on existing dialogue sequences, and one features an alternate intro of the grizzled Bill Johnson character. The longest and most interesting deleted scene features Johnson and Tran making a discovery of a really, really long snake skin, and opting to keep it a secret from the others.
The disc is cut into 28 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English or French.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsIt may have one of the worst titles of recent memory, but Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid is not a completely awful way to kill 90 minutes. It's more of a jungle adventure than a giant snake film at times—and dreadfully predictable more often than not—but it is nicely constructed and works effectively as mindless who's-going-to-get-eaten entertainment.
Rich Rosell 2004-12-21