Komodo (1999) Movie Review

Creatures Attack Movies are not my cup of tea. I usually prefer Zombies Attack or Aliens Attack Movies to creatures any day. Why? Most of the time I find the “creature” in a Creatures Attack Movie to be, well, dumb. Take movies where the creatures in question are bats, bees, snakes, birds — you get the idea. Some animals are just not scary enough to warrant being upgraded to “creature” status. This is the case with Komodo, a movie about giant Komodo dragons that run rampant on an island chomping on any human that crosses their path. That seems like a good recipe for a Creatures Attack Movie, doesn’t it? Well let me tell you, it isn’t.

Komodo begins with a family on their way to their usual summer vacation spot, on an island off the coast of North Carolina. (I know what you’re saying: “North Carolina has an island?” I guess, because that’s what the opening titles say.) In short order, the family’s son, early teen-something Patrick (Kevin Zegers) witnesses the brutal slaughter of his parents and his dog by some very hungry Komodo dragons. Fast-forward months later, where we learn poor Patrick is still suffering from the trauma and has somehow blocked out all the events leading to the murders of his parents, including the presence of the dragons still on the island.

The family, unable to help the boy, turns to a psychiatrist named Victoria (Jill Hennessey). Victoria decides that the only way to help Patrick is to take him back to the island where his parents died (she, of course, has no idea how they died, or that the dragons are still there, since the only person who knows is Patrick and he can’t remember). Soon, Victoria, Patrick, and Patrick’s aunt Annie (Nina Landis) are on their way back to the island. Before you can say, “Uh oh, maybe this wasn’t such a bright idea,” the Komodo dragons attack, Annie is eviscerated, and Victoria and Patrick are on the run. The twosome nearly crashes into a car being driven by Oates (Billy Burke), a biologist and Denby (Paul Gleeson), a local gunman, while the two men are hunting the Komodos. The two groups join forces, but will that be enough to help them survive the night?

To start with, the creatures in Komodo are very well done. The dragons look most frightening in their cgi form. They look real, 7-foot long, and slithering towards us with sharp darting tongues. In this day and age of Jurassic Park dinos, creature effects have come a long way, and is cheaper to do and looks more realistic everyday. I’m not surprised that the cgi versions of the creatures are the only real treat of the movie.

Unfortunately the creatures quickly lose their fearsome appearance as soon as they leap on a character and tries to bite him/her, with cgi being replaced by good ol fashion plastic and animatronics. It also doesn’t help that the Komodos move like elephants and doesn’t snap at you, but rather slowly and laboriously tries to take a bite. I say “try” because these dragons usually never make any kills onscreen, but always seem most dangerous off-screen. Perhaps it’s easier to imply that the Komodo had snuck up on someone and slit his/her throat instead of actually showing it, since the sight of a Komodo dragon moving slower than my grandma might be seen as ridiculously fake.

Besides Komodo dragons that moves like they’re ready for the retirement home, the dragons are also easily killed. A shot from a pistol or from a shotgun is usually enough to turn them into road kill. That’s two strikes against the creatures — too slow and too easily killed. In order to make the Komodos seem more fearsome than they are, the filmmakers give us about a half dozen Komodos instead of just one 7-foot tall lizard. The result is a lot of dead Komodos, a lot of slow slithering and darting tongues, but not one single genuine “scare” moment.

To say that characterization in a Creatures Attack Movie is grossly absent is stating the obvious. The “heart” of the movie is supposed to be Patrick and his struggles to remember and fight his inner demons (he blames himself for his parent’s death), but instead Patrick unexpectedly disappears for much of the movie’s middle only to resurface toward the end. Instead of seeing how Patrick faces his fears, we are treated to Victoria trying to solve the mystery surrounding Oates.

Apparently Oates is blamed for killing his wife, who disappeared (probably killed by a Komodo) while the couple was on the island doing research. Why Johnny Law would seek to imprison Oates for this, without a shred of evidence, is beyond me. Of course Oates knows what really happens and is trying to flee the country; but first he’s being blackmailed by the evil oil companies to kill off the endangered Komodo dragons before the world gets wind of their existence and shuts down oil drilling on the island.

So you have a Creatures Attack movie without a scary creature to attack, with very little ingenuity when it comes to action, and the most clich’ of clich’d stock villains (the evil oilmen), and you end up with one very boring movie. At least the filmmakers were nice enough to end our misery in just an hour and 25 minutes, and Jill Hennessey is certainly easy on the eyes. Thank God for small miracles, I always say.

Michael Lantieri (director) / Hans Bauer, Craig Mitchell (screenplay)
CAST: Jill Hennessy …. Victoria
Billy Burke …. Oates
Kevin Zegers …. Patrick
Paul Gleeson …. Denby
Nina Landis …. Annie

Buy Komodo on DVD