Komodo (1999) poster

Komodo (1999)


Australia/USA. 1999.


Director – Michael Lantieri, Screenplay – Hans Bauer & Craig Mitchell, Producers – Tony Ludwig & Alan Riche, Photography – David Burr, Music – John Debney, CGI Komodo Sequences – Tippett Studio (Supervisor – Frank Petzold), Visual Effects Supervisor – Thomas Schlesny, Special Effects Supervisor – Donald R. Elliott, Animatronic Komodo – John Cox Creature Workshop, Makeup Effects – Pro FX (Supervisors – Brad Greenwood & Kym Sainsbury), Production Design – George Liddle. Production Company – Scanbox Asia Pacific Limited/Komodo Productions Pty Ltd.


Jill Hennessy (Victoria Juno), Billy Burke (Oates), Kevin Zegers (Patrick Connally), Paul Gleeson (Denby), Michael Edward-Stevens (Martin ‘Gris’), Nina Landis (Anne), Simon Westaway (Bracken), Bruce Hughes (Mr Connally), Jane Conroy (Mrs Connally)


The Connally family head out to their holiday home on an island off the South Carolina coast. While there, something in the fields attacks and kills the parents and the young son Patrick’s dog. Several years later. The bodies of the parents have never been found and Patrick has retreated inside himself, no longer speaking. Psychologist Victoria Juno thinks it might bring Patrick out of himself if she returned to the island with him. Once on the island, they are attacked by komodo lizards grown to the size of large animals. At the same time, the biologist Oates arrives on the island at the behest of the Pontiff oil company who have a plant there and want the komodos eliminated. As the group are forced together to fight off the attacking komodos, the company gives Oates orders to eliminate all witnesses.

Komodo was a direct-to-video release that was clearly desirous of jumping aboard the CGI monster movie bandwagon that had been created by Jurassic Park (1993). There were a substantial number of these cheap CGI monster movies produced for a number of years subsequently – see the likes of Bats (1999), King Cobra (1999), Octopus (2000), Python (2000), Spiders (2000), Fangs (2001), New Alcatraz/Boa (2002), Boa vs Python (2004), Attack of the Sabretooth (2005), Cerberus (2005), Mansquito (2005), Pterodactyl (2005), Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006), Mammoth (2006) and Minotaur (2006), among many others. Indeed, Komodo seems so desirous of tapping into this CGI monster movie audience that it prominently displays its creators’ connections to other movies on the video cover, announcing that it is “from the producers of Deep Blue Sea (1999), the writers of Anaconda (1997) and the effects supervisor of Jurassic Park.”

Komodo is directed by Michael Lantieri, best known for supervising special effects on a number of high-profile films, including most of Robert Zemeckis’s films since Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) and most of Steven Spielberg’s films since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), as well as Hulk (2003) and Superman Returns (2006), among many others. Komodo is the only opportunity that Michael Lantieri has been offered to direct to date.

There has been a lengthy history of special effects artists, in particular makeup artists, who have been granted the opportunity to direct – see John Carl Buechler with Troll (1986), Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) and a handful of other films, Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead/Vengenace: The Demon (1988) and Upworld/A Gnome Named Gnorm (1991), Chris Walas’s The Fly II (1989) and The Vagrant (1992), Tom Burman’s Life on the Edge/Meet the Hollowheads (1989), Tom Savini’s remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990), James Cummins’ The Boneyard (1991), Screaming Mad George’s The Guyver (1991), Robert Kurtzman’s The Demolitionist (1996) and Wishmaster (1997), Bob Keen’s Proteus (1995), Kevin Yagher’s Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s Within the Rock (1996) and Anthony C. Ferrante’s Boo (2005).

Almost all of those cited above are B-budget films. Almost none of these have resulted in anything memorable, surprisingly least of all when it comes to the special effects people’s one area of expertise. In the majority of the cases, the respective effects artists were never invited back to the director’s chair for a second outing.

Jill Hennessy and Kevin Zegers faced a giant komodo inside their vehicle in Komodo (1999)
Jill Hennessy and Kevin Zegers faced a giant komodo inside their vehicle

Komodo starts out seeming as though it may be one film that bucks this trend. For one, rather than do what might be the expected thing with an effects man in the director’s chair, Michael Lantieri does exactly the opposite and keeps the provision of any monsters off screen for nearly 35 minutes. During the opening scenes, the menace is kept deliberately unseen – something lurks hidden in the fields, the family dog is snatched through the dog door, followed by the off-screen attack on Kevin Zegers’ parents. The early half of the film gives more attention to the characters than one would expect of one of these made-for-video monster movies.

And when he does finally produce the monsters, Lantieri does not disappoint. The first full appearance of the komodos as one of them abruptly rampages through the living room of the house and into the kitchen comes holds a considerable jolt. Lantieri creates a number of other reasonable scenes with the komodos trying to batter their way into the back of the car or with Jill Hennessy and the others trying to drive between them on the road.

The main problem with Komodo is that while Michael Lantieri conducts an impressive build-up and revelation of the monsters, he fails to allow this to pay off. The third act of the film plays out in predictable and decidedly underwhelming ways. What the film should have built to was an intensive to-the-death struggle with the komodos. However, the final showdown is tame and disappointingly brief.

The other complaint might be that we never get any explanation of what caused the komodos to grow to about the size of large crocodiles, or indeed what tropical creatures that are usually found in South East Asia are doing in the vicinity of North Carolina. There is the suggestion that this is the way they naturally grew but nothing more than that. Surprisingly, none of this is ever tied to the sinister activities of the oil company.

Komodo cut its costs by shooting in Australia, although the Australian accents in the supporting cast show through at times despite the film’s professed claim of being set just off the North Carolina coast.

There were two further films The Curse of the Komodo (2004) and Komodo vs Cobra (2005), although these do not appear to have any connection beyond featuring similar creatures.

Trailer here

Full film available online here:-

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