It wasn’t really explained in Anaconda exactly why there was a gigantic snake. We didn’t care, either, as it existing was enough proof that it could happen in the film’s universe. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid sets out to prove that it wasn’t just a freak of nature; there are more and there is a reason that they’ve all managed to grow this large. That reason is also what’s going to draw a second team of people into the forest.
Our MacGuffin is an object called the “blood orchid” (of the title), which some scientists believe can extend life by allowing cells to replicate more times than the current limit. Anacondas grow until they die (so the movie claims), so if they have been ingesting this flower, they have a way to become as large as the ones we get to see. Truth be told, the film doesn’t really tell you this until midway through, but it honestly doesn’t matter. Just note that the film tries to bring science into this, and depending on how much you care about “real science,” it might put you off the experience that is The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.
The team this time around consists of a lead scientist (Matthew Marsden), his assistant (KaDee Strickland), and a bunch of other people who have no real personality or reason to be there, except to be eaten by the snakes of the title. It’s rainy season, and nobody will take them up-river, however, so they also have to find a guide. He comes in the form of Johnny Messner, who tells them that he’ll guide them for $50,000. Not a bad sum of money for one week’s worth of work. Or, at least, so he thinks.
It turns out that these people are in an Anaconda movie, meaning no amount of money would be worth the horrors that they’re going to have to go through in order to survive. Most of them won’t live to see the end, too, especially if they don’t have a personality. We spend a lot of time with these people — they fight less than the group in the last film, which was nice — but once the snakes hit the fan, I couldn’t really tell them apart. They all had the same personality and I just couldn’t find a reason to care.
What happens in The Hunt for the Blood Orchid? People take a boat on the river, anacondas attack them, and then they have to fight for survival, all while deciding whether or not to complete a mission which could result in discovering a plant which could be used to create a pharmaceutical fountain of youth. Oh, and that plant only blooms for a few months every seven years, so we have a strict time frame in which to complete the mission.
Of course, survival turns out to be more important, at least to some characters. Others think that the billions of dollars is worth risking a few lives. Greed is the biggest sin this time around, and like in the previous Anaconda, it is something that rarely goes unpunished. Are these movies strict moral tales? It kind of seems like it to me. Only the main villain — a character turn I won’t reveal but you’ll see coming from a mile away anyway — gets away with it for the majority of the picture. Everyone else seems to get knocked out right after they do anything “wrong.”
It might be a coincidence, or perhaps even a case of confirmation bias on my part, but it certainly seemed to me as if these characters were here to get killed only if they had made a bad choice and needed their just desserts. That’s more depth than you’ll get from some of these horror movies. Lots of them just want to kill these characters simply because they find it enjoyable. This one does it to prove a point. Or, I felt like that was what it was attempting to do, for the most part.
The snakes look even better this time around. I’m not sure if much money was put into practical effects here — Anaconda was mostly animatronics, while this one is almost all CGI — but I couldn’t tell. The snakes get more to do in this one, and look great. CGI improved a lot in the seven years between this film and its predecessor, and that work shows. See this movie for the snakes, I suppose, because they’re fun to watch and they kill people in sometimes inventive ways.
I can’t say that the film is terribly scary, although neither was Anaconda. This one at least attempts to build tension, instead of going straight from peace to insanity with no middle ground. It’s just a shame that the payoffs rarely give any true scares. The attempt is there; it’s just that there was a fumble right before the goal line. Still, I think I have to take that over the abrupt jumps in tone from the first film, as at least some sort of mood is set in this film.
Is Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid worth seeing? Sure. I had some fun with it. No more or no less than the original, but for different reasons. This one looked better and it was kind of nice to not have to listen to artificial feeling squabble for the majority of the time, but on the other hand, it didn’t have Jon Voight and it wasn’t as creative in its kills. Still, it attempted to establish a tone and Johnny Messner has a lot of screen presence — nobody else does — and I think it’s worth a watch, especially if you liked the first installment.