Creature features have gone through various cycles throughout horror movie history. In the 50s, fears of atomic bombs created a whole plethora of giant insects and other types of monsters. More recently, Syfy and other similar companies have jumped on the “so bad it’s good” bandwagon creating many series and standalone over the top and ridiculous films like Sharknado. For me, though, the time that I really love was in the 90s (and early 00s). We were treated to creature features that were horror movies- they embraced fear, suspense, and even gore at times- but stretched beyond that. A lot of them reminded people of adventure movies or even action flicks. Sort of a surf and turf of movies where we were getting treated to two different genre types, and it was delightful.
Among those movies is 1997’s Anaconda (which interestingly enough spawned its own so bad it’s good Syfy movie series). Anaconda follows a group filming a documentary on the Amazon. They come across a seemingly stranded poacher (Serone) and rescue him. Serone keeps attempting to get the group to take a different course down the river, before eventually forcing their hands. He is trying to capture a giant anaconda alive and needs the group and their boat to make this happen.
What unfolds is pretty standard for the time. The group is trying to get the upper hand back from Serone while also dealing with our creature, a deadly snake. We get some adventure, a lot of fast-paced moments with both of our baddies going after the group, several moments of humans slowly walking through the creature’s area, wondering which one is going to get it. What I mean is the movie is not breaking any molds. You can compare it to a lot of other movies of the same vein from that time. That is not necessarily a bad thing, however.
Sure parts of the movie are not great (looking at you Jon Voight and your horrible accent, also poorly aged effects), but overall it is decent. There is also nothing wrong with bringing your audience what they want, even if you aren’t the biggest stand out in doing so. The plot is alright, a few moments but overall good. The characters are solid enough, although again, Jon Voight’s performance is questionable. There are decent moments that build tension and good deaths and scares.
All in all, it’s not a bad movie. It is not the best of the 90s creature features, but I feel it has been sort of unfairly treated over the years. It is entertaining, some fear, a creature worth being afraid of, a sense of adventure, it does what it needs to do. And while some of it has not aged perfectly and it has a few goofy moments, it is a far sight from over the top, intentionally bad, creature feature. Although you can make the claim that Anaconda had a hand in the bridge between the 90s style creature features and the mid-00s where silly became the goal, but that is a subject for another day.
At this point, I think most horror fans have watched the movie have decided how they feel about it. If it’s been some time, I would say it is worth revisiting, just with some understanding that there are parts that… leave a little to be desired. I find it to be more entertaining and solid than a lot of people seem to remember it being. I also once again love that it falls in with so many of the movies from that era that I enjoyed.
So why Anaconda and why now? Well, if you have been following me for a while, you might have noticed that I tend to talk about my wish for the 90s like creature feature to come back. I have often said that while I like silly creature features, I don’t like that they have taken over the subgenre. It seems as though in the last couple of years, we have gotten hints at a building rebirth of the type of creature features I have wished for more of.
You might remember that I praised Crawl for being one of the best movies last year and a perfect example of a more 90s style creature feature. It had a sense of adventure while still holding on to horror. It was fast-paced but still brought suspense. And it in no way wanted to rest on just being entertaining with it’s “badness,” no, it is a legitimately well done and good movie. Underwater is sadly underperforming, but many people have noted that it does once again what I have been looking for, creatures, horror, adventure. Now we even have an announcement of a reboot of Anaconda.
The writing is on the wall seems to imply that I might actually get my wish. We might be looking at a coming renaissance of creature features with the specific feel I have been talking about. At the very least, we are seeing more studios showing interest in making at least a few. I hope this is a sign of more of these movies coming, and if it is, I am beyond excited. I want more Crawl. I want more Underwater. I want more Anaconda. I also want more of The Relic, Mimic, Jurassic Park, etc. I am excited to see where we are going with horror in the next several years, and I hope that there is space for fun, exciting, adventure-filled creature features in it.