Komodo is directed by Michael Lantieri, best known for supervising special effects on a number of high-profile films, including most of Robert Zemeckiss films since Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) and most of Steven Spielbergs 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 Winstons Pumpkinhead/Vengenace: The Demon (1988) and Upworld/A Gnome Named Gnorm (1991), Chris Walass The Fly II (1989) and The Vagrant (1992), Tom Burmans Life on the Edge/Meet the Hollowheads (1989), Tom Savinis remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990), James Cummins The Boneyard (1991), Screaming Mad Georges The Guyver (1991), Robert Kurtzmans The Demolitionist (1996) and Wishmaster (1997), Bob Keens Proteus (1995), Kevin Yaghers Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Gary J. Tunnicliffes Within the Rock (1996) and Anthony C. Ferrantes Boo (2005). Almost all of these are B-budget films. Almost none of these have resulted in anything memorable, surprisingly least of all when it comes to the special effects peoples one area of expertise. In the majority of the cases, the respective effects artists were never invited back to the directors chair for a second outing.
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 directors 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 films 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.
Full film available online here:-