LOS ANGELES – Movie critics are hissing about a snake thriller sequel that’s slithering into theaters this weekend.
Seven years after part one, "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid" (search) is hoping to get a stranglehold on the box office.
But if the reviewers are right, audiences aren’t likely to be charmed by the snake flick.
“’Anacondas' has not the pleasant fragrance of a rare orchid but the stink of something digested and expelled by a snake with an intestinal disorder,” moaned Associated Press reviewer David Germain. “The movie’s only achievement is that it’s so stupidly plotted and badly acted, it becomes unintentionally funny here and there.”
Set deep in the jungles of Borneo, the action thriller is the story of a scientific expedition hunting for a rare black orchid, thought to hold the key to immortality. Ironically, death at the hands of slithering predators awaits.
New York Post critic Megan Lehmann was unimpressed.
“Time drags as a cast of characters straight out of central casting bicker and flirt with one another, and director Dwight Little (search) tries in vain to ratchet up the tension by scaring his jungle adventurers with leeches, spiders and — gasp — a monkey,” she wrote. “None of the eclectic original cast, which included Jon Voight, Owen Wilson and Ice Cube, is here. Instead, we have an instantly forgettable group of actors inhabiting shopworn stereotypes."
But the film’s stars plugged the sequel with the usual pep and enthusiasm.
“It’s a good, old-fashioned adventure movie,” said British actor Matthew Marsden, who plays expedition scientist Dr. Jack Byron. “It’s one you’re going to be able to take the kids to and have a laugh. … It’s just a fun movie.”
The film's slimy villain — actually a reproduction of an anaconda snake — is a character in its own right.
“The snake’s a huge star,” said actor Johnny Messner, who plays a boat skipper named Captain Bill.
“Anacondas” director Little said the faux serpent was created to be believable as the real thing.
“It’s not a frame-for-frame reproduction of an anaconda,” Little said. “But the teeth are exactly the same, the inside of the mouth and the palate is the same, the way the eye is set is the same. … Then we take these little licenses that make it seem more like a thinking creature.”
One cast member said it wasn’t hard acting scared, because at times, the filming conditions were truly hair-raising.
“You are in this stagnant water that is quite frightening to be in,” said actress KaDee Strickland, who plays Dr. Byron’s research assistant. “Thank goodness they’ve given us wetsuits and so forth, but there are times that you can’t wear them. And you jump in and you don’t know what’s under your feet, and suddenly there are sea snakes that are actually poisonous.”
But the Post’s Lehmann groaned about the special effects.
“The biggest problem with the corny horror film ‘Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid’ is that its titular reptiles are about as scary as jellied eels,” she wrote. “The supersize snakes don’t even make an appearance until the movie’s midway point — and when they do, appalling special effects render them merely risible.”
The first installment, the 1997 “Anacondas” — perhaps most memorable for Jennifer Lopez’s “hilariously earnest performance,” according to Lehmann — wasn’t particularly well received, either, but wound up making a decent profit.
Part two has impressed critics even less — or more accurately, not at all.
“The one decent performance comes from the boat’s mascot, a cute little monkey whose screams of terror provide the movie’s only expressive and heartfelt moments,” wrote Germain. “The various special effects, including plenty of computer-generated imagery to create the giant snakes, mostly look chintzy. The anacondas are not remotely scary, the action and stunts are lame, and the movie has no suspense, no chills.
But actor Morris Chestnut (search), the only “Anacondas” cast member who is remotely well known among American audiences, from films such as “Boyz in the Hood” (1991), thinks the sequel outfoxes — or rather, outsnakes — its predecessor.
“We have this plan to come up with this eternal-life type potion … so we have to go on this expedition to get this orchid … and we have a close encounter of a snake kind,” Chestnut said. “I believe our story is better than the first one, not that we’re competing, but we need to give the audience a little more. We need to be coming with a little more than just the snake to entertain them. … I think we did that.”
FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans and Mike Waco contributed to this report.