This is where the distinction between "tie-in" and "mockbuster," I believe, is the most vivid. King of the Lost World is of course meant to draft attention from fans of King Kong, but instead of making a rote reinvention, The Asylum has here - as they did with Princess of Mars, the Avatar tie-in and The Land That Time Forgot, a Land of the Lost tie-in - returned to the source material, of sorts. King Kong is not based on a book, but there are tales it was suggested by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel "The Lost World," which also inspired "Jurassic Park" and Jurassic Park (and the sequel to the latter, of course; it's subtitled The Lost World.) It also feels as if The Asylum, when putting a modern touch on the storyline, was inspired by a certain television show that premiered just the year before. See how many words you get into the following sentence before you figure out what show I'm referring to; if it takes more than four, you're blocked for ten minutes: when a plane crashes on a strange island, survivors are left with a struggle for life that's going to take more than mere survival.
The survivors - a collection of Asylum all-stars including Bruce Boxleitner (Legion of the Dead, "Babylon 5"), Jeff Denton (The Beast of Bray Road, Pirates of Treasure Island), Rhett Giles (Frankenstein Reborn, Dracula's Curse), Andrew Lauer (Jane White is Sick & Twisted, War of the Worlds) and Sarah Lieving (pick any Asylum movie; 70-80% of the time she'll be in it) - make the inevitable decision to leave the beach in search of other survivors and the airplane's black box, not realizing they're entering a monstrous menagerie of Vernesian proportions: animals, insects, plants - you name it, it's out to get you on this island. So, predictably, things go south real quick.
First the toga-ed, juggalo-ed natives appear. Then the survivors come across a footprint the size of a fucking starter home. I don't know how other people travel, but me, if I come across something like that, a footprint I could park my car in, I go back the fuck where I came from. But instead of retreating to the beach and visibility from the air, our survivors decide to test that designation by tromping further into the obviously foreboding jungle. Along the way they find a downed plane with working missiles - lucky break, that - and a deranged Steve Railsback (Helter Skelter, The Stunt Man, Intermedio). The rest I'll let you unravel for yourself - say no to spoilers - but needless to say, creatures, fire and sweat-stained tank-tops abound. There's even a gratuitous breast scene that turns kinda lesbian, followed promptly by mild jungle torture, creature violence and revelations. And the monkey, the king of the lost world, I'll say just two things: it's really, really fucking big, really; and it makes a laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate appearance in the film.
Bottom line, I found the film to be enthralling, original and character driven instead of FX-heavy, though the FX present are effective. They're not Peter-Jackson FX, but aside from that monkey-T. Rex brawl, who the fuck cared? Bruce Boxleitner is viciously stoic as the passenger with a secret, and a gun, while Steve Railsback is rightfully ornery and emaciated, a convincing castaway madman, spouting "Lost" season one theories that the island is their Hell. Sarah Lieving and Jeff Denton are lovers once again as they were in The Beast of Bray Road, the former her typically hyper-motivated, fiercely-independent self, strong and brash, but still able to break just like a little girl, and the latter furrowedly concerned and quietly relentless.
Brought to you by the same writing triumvirate of Pirates of Treasure Island, and directed, as was that film, by Leigh Scott, the Peter Jackson of The Asylum, King of the Lost world is B-movie gold, and a goddamn good time.