Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Monster Violence and Language
Directed by: Michael Lantieri
Written by: Hans Bauer & Craig Mitchell
Starring: Jill Hennessy, Bill Burke, Kevin Zegers, Michael Edward-Steven, Paul Gleeson & Nina Landis
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, it seemed like audiences were being bombarded by killer animals. These ranged from anacondas in the amazon to sharks in the deep blue sea to even a few eight legged freaks. Snakes, sharks, and spiders have been used plenty of times in plenty of nature run amok films. You know what hasn’t been used? Komodo dragons. Besides being super strong, these giant lizards pack a deadly infectious bite (thanks to rotting meat of previous kills stored in their teeth). You would think that anyone could potentially make a fun komodo dragon horror movie, right? I mean, you’d just need scary lizards, a group of victims, and gnarly death scenes. Enter 2000’s KOMODO. This film was seemingly being set up for a theatrical release with a budget of just over 11 million US dollars, but was eventually shoved onto the direct-to-video market and as well as constant airings on the Syfy channel. What went wrong with KOMODO? Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the plot first.
On a small island off the coast of South Carolina, a mysterious something has slaughtered and eaten teenage Patrick’s parents. Seeing as the movie is called KOMODO, it doesn’t really seem too big of a mystery as to what the mysterious something actually is, but Patrick remains traumatized from the event nonetheless. When a young psychiatrist is recruited to help the now-mute Patrick get over his past trauma, she figures the best approach would be to take him back to the very island where his parents were devoured. Needless to say, the parent-eating komodo dragons have remained on the island and still very hungry. Meanwhile, an evil oil company has hired two men to kill all of the bloodthirsty reptiles on the island to cover up a past blunder. Pretty soon everybody is running from angry flesh-eating lizards.
That plot synopsis might sound pretty fun if the screenwriters or director were to take a goofy B-movie approach to the material. However, KOMODO plays everything entirely too straight-faced. In fact, the first 30 minutes of this film borders on melodrama as the psychiatrist and Patrick’s aunt discuss his treatment all while a mute Patrick gazes pensively into the distance. When komodo dragons finally show up, it becomes clear that this was being made during the phase where filmmakers were all too happy to embrace CGI. Though I spotted a couple of puppets, most of these creatures are brought to life through unconvincing CGI. I mean, even the effects in ANACONDA looked better than this. Adding insult to injury is the utter lack of a body count and a PG-13 rating that restricts any possibility of gore. That’s a shame, seeing as these characters are ridiculously bland and I wanted them to die. This is especially true of Billy Burke (a.k.a. Bella’s father from the TWILIGHT series) who’s trying to be an action hero…complete with rock n roll music backing his scenes.
It should come as no surprise that the climax to KOMODO feels just as anti-climactic and dull as everything that I’ve already described. KOMODO refuses to have any fun with its silly premise and everyone is playing this material entirely too straight-faced. This tedious nature-gone-amok film borrows familiar elements from many others of its ilk and then waters everything down with a goreless PG-13 rating. In the end, it feels bland, generic, and downright boring. If you want a fun and pretty scary video involving komodo dragons, then just YouTube the Crocodile Hunter encountering actual komodo dragons. I guarantee it’s a lot more fun and exciting than this film.