Every preconceived notion audiences might have about "Anaconda" is correct. This supposed serpentine shocker features doomed adventurers wading through murky water while a deadly snake approaches and "Jaws"-like music throbs. The plot retraces a formula employed by countless predecessors to kill off its supporting characters in a predictable sequence. And there's the bad guy with the foreign accent, and the requisite romance between handsome anthropologist and shapely journalist. It's all here, as is an ironic comfort in watching such a well-worn tale from the dark side.
Dr. Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz) is heading down the Amazon in search of an undocumented Indian tribe. Joining him is Terri Flores ("Selena's" Jennifer Lopez), a filmmaker charged with recording Dr. Cale's quest. Ten minutes into their voyage, snaky Paul Sarone (Jon Voight) jumps aboard and commandeers the boat to begin a Captain Ahab-style hunt for his gigantic underwater nemesis: the titular anaconda upon whose nonexistent shoulders this movie rests. Despite satisfactory performances from the cast, the film's human characters remain secondary to this nasty snake and the special effects that created it.
Scary, this movie isn't. The faux serpent, albeit an impressive creature, looks wholly unrealistic as it zips through water and air like a Saturday morning cartoon character. And such schlocky touches as the anaconda's penchant for regurgitation are more gross (and funny) than frightening. What chills there are spring more from standard stalk-and-startle techniques than from the creepy characteristics associated with snakes. Director Luis Llosa ("The Specialist") shot "Anaconda" in Brazil, and the tropical setting imbues his movie with much-needed authenticity and cinematic richness. Llosa advances the story at an absorbing clip that never bores the audience, and he wisely eschews any high-minded discourse about good and evil. As cheesy, predictable horror flicks go, "Anaconda" squeezes considerable life from its limited aspirations.