Komodo (1999) [REVIEW] | Dragon Park

Let’s clarify this right away: this has nothing to do with the Jym Wynorski “Komodo duology”, not only because this movie pre-dates both movies, but because this one has actual dignity and quality.

It’s fairly common for special effects artists to also become directors, especially if we’re talking B-movies and creature features about giant monsters or dinosaurs of some kind, but it’s still kinda odd that a movie like this can legit claim on the cover, poster and promotional material “it’s from the FX artist behind the effects of Jurassic Park”… and also the writer of the first Anaconda, Jack Bauer.

The fact this is also the only directorial credit to Michael Lantieri’s filmography makes it a bit more unique, at least for what concerns the history surrounding Komodo, a movie that sound like direct-to-video material but almost got a proper, big scale worldwide theatherical release.. until it didn’t, as the distribution deal fell through at the last minute, and as a result it just had very limited theathrical screenings in Australia, Canada and the US, direct to VHS and DVD pretty much everywhere else.

Due to an animal smuggler, some komodo dragon eggs are dumped on a North Carolina island. But they don’t all break, so 19 years later, a young boy named Patrick sees komodo dragons eat his dog, chase him and even hears them eating his parents.

Since nobody else is willing to believe him and the trauma blocked off memory of these events, his therapist, Victoria, in order to avoid his own family putting Patrick away in a sanitarium, propose to travel back with Patrick to the island, in order to make him confront his fears and hopefully make him able to remember and move past those tragic events, but going back on the island they found out that a growing number of komodo dragons isn’t the only thing out the get them…

This is an actual synopsis, if you read the main one displayed in the IMDB; you’ll be led to expect a completely different or far stupider movie, again, like Komodo Vs Cobra, which i feel it’s why today most people read the title and decide to just don’t bother.

And while understandable, you’d miss on a surprisingly decent-good movie about killer reptiles, even if it’s basically “Jurassic Park redux” without the science-fiction elements and with komodos instead of dinosaurs. It becomes pretty obvious in some scenes that are similar… and those that are pretty much redone verbatim, like the monster lizard discovered by its reflection in the rear-view mirror of the car, or the person pushing their head against a windowpane of a vehicle.

BUT it would be unfair to bash it because of this, because the direction by Lantieri is quite decent and manages to even deliver a bit of atmosphere and suspense leading up to the reveal of the komodo dragons, and thanks to a surprisingly more restrained script from Jack Bauer, you have some likeable characters that you end up caring about, alongside some fun little plot “twists” that help out to flesh out the characters a little bit more AND bring some fun action scenes.

All with a decent cast that includes Billy Burke, Kevin Zegers, Paul Gleeson, and fairly high production values, you can tell this was supposed to be a theathrical release, even more because the effects (a combination of pratical and digital, again, like in Jurassic Park) for the komodo are honestly top notch stuff, as one could expect from a special effects wizard like Lantieri.

Most likely it’s derivative nature was the reason Michael Lantieri didn’t direct any more movies, as this one did see him emulate Spielberg’s work on Jurassic Park, so i’d guess he wasn’t satisfied with and figured it would make more sense to just stick with what he was already great at. Very humble and dignified in a sea of directors that kept pumping out terrible B-movies by the gojillions.

Overall, Komodo is a slightly underrated and unfairly forgotten decent-good killer lizards movie.

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