Another scary movie with a set of fresh, young actors venturing out where
there are threats to life and limb from all sides but mostly from some
supernatural monstrosity that thinks of them as tasty morsels. The unusual
thing about it is that it's more carefully crafted than many in the fright
genre for a younger audience.
It starts with the scene that sets the stage for the hunt and which provides a
high stakes quarry we can all get behind. Scientists have discovered that a
rare orchid that grows in the deep jungles of Borneo has life-extending
properties that could be worth billions to the first company that captures
enough specimen to develop a drug. Trouble is, it must be collected at its
blooming stage, which occurs only every 7 years. And, it's in bloom now!
Since it will last only another couple of weeks, the team is assembled and
Films with a group of people, films like "The Dirty Dozen", "Oceans Eleven" are textbook
examples of writers and directors setting up their characters with enough
individuality to give them instant recognition and audience bonding.
The task of introducing the characters is done here with a notable level of
skill, making a critical writing task seem casual. The scientists and
company reps are Matthew Marsden as Dr. Jack Byron, a self-styled leader with
an uncompromising approach; gorgeous KaDee Strickland ("Stepford Wives", "Girl, Interrupted" as his
assistant Sam Rogers and a total babe; no less so Salli Richardson as Gail
Stern who thinks of herself as the leader; and Morris Chestnut ("Confidence") as scientist
The group arrives in Borneo and finds that local boatmen won't take them
upriver during this storm season. They wind up negotiating with the one man
who'll do it for a price -- a high one. Bill Johnson (Johnny Messner, "Spartan"), is a buff powerhouse
with an easygoing cut-to-the-chase confidence. His crew and right-hand-man
is similarly built Tran (Karl Yune), an always-there sidekick. And, joining
the crew for early snuffing is Nicholas Gonzalez as lecherous, onboard doctor
Ben Douglas who suffers from opportunistic overconfidence.
The social dynamics on Johnson's vessel, which was built sometime
after Noah's ark went down, evolve from petty flirtations, to awe of
Johnson's combat skills with a knife, to issues of collective survival and
evil villainy. By the time the human and superhuman creatures make their
moves, we care enough about some of these characters to become involved in
the outcome of the journey.
In an ensemble piece in which every participant carries their appropriate
share of the acting burden (lots of variations on fear and shock), the
standout is KaDee Strickland. It's evident, to me, at least, that this
bright bombshell from Georgia will be the sexual tension-maker in a stream of
future films, three of which are already in the pipeline. Clearly, we're
witnessing a star in the making which her appearance in "The Street Lawyer"
(based on the John Grisham novel) should solidify.
In a genre that includes the Freddie Krugers and "Screams" of the world, one
doesn't always find distinguishable characters, sound acting, and splashingly
effective CGI creations. Considering the pro writing and production values,
this is an above average specimen, despite its predictable and cliched nature
from which it can no sooner escape than can a victim of one of these 100 year
old 100 feet long snakes that hunger for a satisfying meal.
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~~ Jules Brenner