Monday, 1 December 2008

Anaconda 3: The Hoffspring (2008)

"I only said that the General Lee could probably outrun KITT"

I have very faint memories of the first Anaconda film, which was mildly successful thanks to the involvement of the then-popular (pre-Gigli) Jennifer Lopez. The second film, Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid, passed me by completely. It seems that there must be a little money left in the franchise because Sci-Fi Originals have seen fit to crank out a couple more giant-snake-flavoured frankfurts out of it's cinematic sausage machine. Direct-to-video stalwart Don E. FauntLeRoy (who you may remember from his work with Steven Seagal) has punched out Anaconda 3: The Offspring and Anaconda 4: Blood Trail. These films should fit comfortably on the bottom row of your local video store (or Netflix queue), right next to Python, Python 2, Boa vs Python and the ten thousand other shot-in-Eastern-Europe giant snake films.

Evil billionaire Murdoch (John Rhys-Davies, the poor guy must have some serious gambling debts) is funding researching into the life-extending MacGuffin of the previous films. This research involves giant snakes (one female and one male, of course) and also some genetic modification etc. It's all justified with some vague reference to Alzheimer's and cancer, the usual stuff. Leading the experiment is expert herpetologist Amanda (Crystal Allen, and despite the pornstar name her imdb credits only turn up a handful of TV roles), who has serious misgivings about the quality of their containment facilities. In fact, they are so understaffed that they can only afford a handful of extras in lab coats. Sure enough, the snakes bust out of their cage, kill a few scientists and escape. Probably a bad idea to make air conditioning ducts large enough to accommodate a 40 foot snake. Just a thought.

Now, I wouldn't imagine it would be especially difficult to track a giant snake (following the meter-wide furrow in the undergrowth might be a good start) but apparently it is necessary to call in a team of specialist snake hunters. As well Amanda, we have a cast of rich and diverse characters, including Black Guy, Butch Girl and Greasy-Hair Guy. Leading the team is Hammett, a cigar-chewing mercenary (for justice!) played by the Hoff. The Sci-Fi Originals people definitely knew what they were doing casting the Knight Rider. He is featured prominently on the cover and should prove a successful eye-catcher to hipsters with ironic facial hair. Unfortunately he isn't the main character in the film and long stretches of the film are disappointingly Hoff-free. Although he is about as convincing playing a badass here as he was in Nick Fury: Agent of Shield (ie not very), at one point he tosses a beefy Romanian extra through a plate-glass window, leading to severe lacerations. This is one of the few instances I've seen in a movie where someone is seriously injured by a defenestration. Seagal should take notes.

What follows is a predictable series of events, where a 40 foot snake somehow sneaks up on a succession of supposedly elite hunters and kills them. Making this snake extra-super-deadly is that it is capable of skewering people with it's tail, a side-effect of it's genetic modification. It does this a lot. I would imagine that being speared through the chest by a tail thicker than most people's arms would be instantly fatal, but most of the victims in this film survive at least long enough for the rest of the team to bicker about whether to save them and/or have a tearful death scene. The team is picked off one by one, the snakes are killed in a giant explosion and an unsurprising epilogue sets up the sequel.

I should also mention is the film steals brazenly from Predator. The snakes make the same clicky rasp, the squad of hunters are all decked out in Arnold's surplus wardrobe and there are many scenes of them aimlessly firing machine guns in the forest (supposedly in the Amazon but suspiciously European in appearance). Of course, here they're aiming at a 40 foot snake, not an alien hunter with advanced stealth technology, so there's no excuse for their terrible aim. If only they had been a little more shameless and featured Hoff brandishing a mini-gun or calling himself a "Sexual Tyrannosaurus", I think it might have just been enough to save the film.

The first Anaconda film was campy enough to be enjoyable, but this film just goes through the motions with the barest amount of energy or style. There a few silly, gory scenes, such as when a hunter is decapitated by a giant snake and continues to fire his automatic weapon, riddling the landscape with bullets and blowing up their jeep. Unfortunately these scenes are too short and infrequent, and although it's surprisingly bloody for a giant snake film, it's a Sci-Fi Original, and that means it is riddled with bad CG. Is it too much to ask for a scene of the Hoff wrestling with a giant rubber snake? It's what we are all here for, you know it and I know it. So why must every shot be a digital composite? Why must even a simple blood spray be rendered digitally? I know the budget was thin, but are you telling me you couldn't afford some corn syrup and red dye? Did you not have correct change for the laundromat? Why?! If you see this dvd on a video shelf and find yourself drawn in by the rugged charms of the Hoff, do yourself a favour and stay your hand. Just imagine a Hoff-vs-Anaconda film in your head. I guarantee it will be better.

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