Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 92 minutes
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It is a cruel irony that film makers today can use the liberating properties of computer imagery to produce monster films that are every bit as terrible today as they were 50 years ago. The use of modern technology to replicate qualities of two generations previous is so wrongheaded the mind reels, until you grasp that director Jay Andrews is more infamously known as flesh auteur Jim Wynorski. There is one reason anybody would watch his film–only one approach to watch such—and that is to have fun at his expense. This was produced in such a half-hearted manner that taking anything serious would be a disservice. However reveling in the idiocy will more than justify the rental price, and there is ample idiocy in which to revel.
What we are dealing with is nothing more than those monster films of yore, when nuclear proliferation spawned sufficient paranoia that our parents sought protection from missiles by encampment under wooden desks, and theaters were filled with every imaginable creature mutated to parade-balloon proportions. Most reptilian and entomological specimens had their moment of ostentatious assaults on humans, and now apparently we can be treated once again to their tepid form of terror.
The prologue places us on a barrier island off the main Hawaiian archipelago where some army grunts meet a violent end at the claws of some creature. Next we get Professor Nathan Phipps being called in to Pearl Harbor Naval Command to discuss what happened that night on Isla Dumas. Phipps had long been conducting scientific studies on Dumas for something called Project Catalyst, which centered on a growth experiment to make food more plentiful, yet he becomes chagrinned to discover that Navy brass stepped in and tweaked with his experiments. You can never trust the military.
Yes, once again we come to discover the armed forces decided to create killer wildlife for nefarious purposes. Apparently, based on the countless movies with mutated animals, our military complex has a Department of Defensive Husbandry that prefers to have nature executing our dirty work abroad. This time the Navy has used Project Catalyst to create monstrously sized Komodo dragons to be used as weapons. How, or to what end, is never detailed, but as is always the case in these films the budget for such projects fell short in the area of containment facilities. For some reason Phipps is the one ordered to the island to clean up the Navy’s failed experiment, but introspection here breeds curiosity. The Komodos were created to be used as weapons, and they ended up killing soldiers—sounds like anything but a failure to me.
Next we logically cut away to a casino.
There we meet a curvy hostess dealing with surly customers, but her impatience is soon rewarded as she heads downstairs and teams with two men who are robbing the vaults. The connection? They fly off in a helicopter as a gale force storm descends on the island and they have to make an emergency landing on Dumas. This is a plot contortion that is further strained by the fact that we learned in the film’s opening shot that Dumas sits some 300 miles offshore, making for quite the wrong turn. Arriving separately is Phipps and his team at their facility, which is surrounded by an electrical fence that was last used unsuccessfully at Jurassic Park. (Any similarities are purely coincidental.)
The crooks find their helicopter is damaged and so they hike in search for water. The scientific team meanwhile needs gas for the generators and searches for fuel–and they find water. Specifically, two of the women find a waterfall, and since this is a crisis situation one of them has to go skinny dipping. The Komodos, we can deduce, are attracted to breasts because as the professor’s daughter is frolicking one of the creatures is awakened by the buxom noises, and later when a group is cornered a blonde in the transparent tank top is the first victim devoured.
During this shrill ride we also learn some curious science. For starters we watch a scientist make a chemical analysis on the water supply using a plastic garden rain gauge. Then we are told that these dragons hate the sun and prefer to become active at night, differing from every other cold blooded reptile on the planet. And throughout the experience we witness repeated scenes where bullets are shown to have no effect on the leviathan lizards, yet numerous long stretches play out where up to eight people are firing futilely at them for minutes at a stretch. Only once did I see somebody pause to reload.
Wynorski also unintentionally provides mirth with his impotent attempts at tension. The protective fence is losing power because the facility is running low on fuel—on the first day. The Navy doesn’t send support or supplies because they don’t feel like it, and the people are stranded because the drunk of a chopper pilot was just kidding about the damage. One gripping episode has the crowd packed in truck and as they flee a lizard gives chase, with the crowd firing guns for miles—the scene eventually ends when the lizard just decides to stop running.
To get an idea on the severity of Mr. Wynorski’s misanthropy, while I was watching this feature my daughter came in the room and she shook her head, casually announcing that a lizard that size was biologically unviable as it would not be able to generate enough body heat to sustain itself, and its skeleton would not support its weight. When an eight year old can pick apart your efforts after a mere 5 seconds you are in trouble.
Posted on August 26, 2004 in Reviews by Brad Slager
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