Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Krew Boylan, Lindsay Farris, Rebekah Foord, Damien Freeleagus
Directed by Josh Reed
It’s no secret: I find no greater cinematic joy than a nice, gruesome monster movie. Nothing else (well, maybe besides zombies) is capable of producing similar giddiness before a screening, so it was with a great degree of pleasure that I sat down to witness Australian creature feature Primal.
The trailer promised some brutal, stylish and bloody monster mayhem, alongside a surprise ending – a recipe for success if ever there was one. Instead, the finished product is, distressingly, an almost intolerable and laughable attempt at a horror film.
Opening 12,000 (or so) years ago, Primal begins with one of our anthropomorphic ancestors completing a cave painting depicting people fleeing from monsters alongside a big squid/plant looking thing. Just as he finishes, he’s attacked by a snarling adversary and punctuates his masterpiece with a big bloody handprint.
Off to modern day we go, and a group of six friends arrive to locate and study the paintings, which nobody until now has gone close enough to do. While taking a shortcut through an ominous cave, the claustrophobic member of the group, Anya, cuts her arm. Her blood is siphoned into the ground and from there “something” awakens and infects the nearby lake.
To cut a long story short, one of our gang goes skinny dipping in the lake and soon after becomes feverish before suddenly sprouting dental work straight out of Lamberto Bava’s Demons and attacking her friends. The mutated individual also runs and leaps like a speed-addicted monkey on PCP while constantly wailing a supposedly scary shriek that does nothing but grate the nerves.
This is when Primal truly starts to fall apart. Members of the group are attacked by a mutated rabbit sporting the biggest fangs you’ll ever see on a filmic rodent and think nothing much of it. Instead, another character nonchalantly impales it on a stick to ward off any further mutated rabbits that may be lurking beyond the campsite. The boyfriend of the first infected character spends half of his dialogue sincerely delivering lines such as “She’s sick” and “She needs help!” while his beau rips the intestines out of his supposed friends. If Primal was intended as a send-up or pastiche of the monster movie, it’s a rip-roaring success. That’s exactly what it isn’t, though – and when a shot appears of a kangaroo silently eating some grass before being rugby-tackled out of frame by our shrieking antagonist, it becomes apparent what an utter tonal failure Primal really is. The intentional humor, when it appears, works well (for example a confused monster accidentally opening a rear car window while attempting to reach a victim), but you’d be hard pushed to tell when Primal is joking and when it is actually trying to be serious.
The mutated monster also drags carcasses to the cave from the start of the movie, where they are dropped and rapidly decompose into the ground using some of the most horrendous CGI you’ll ever see. The climax features a huge CGI creature of quality so bad I wasn’t sure whether to keep laughing or cry as it clumsily attempts to impregnate the lead actress – slamming repeatedly into her crotch in a woefully edited sequence like some kind of enormous, primordial Ron Jeremy leech.
To his credit, director Josh Reed does pull off a couple of rather nasty kill scenes and stylish sequences (though these are occasionally a little too close to music video territory for comfort) and makes impressive use of the beautiful locations; but the sheer ineptitude of the script and handling of the tone, not to mention eye-searingly poor CGI, quite easily overwhelms this. It does have a rather good final few moments, but a few brief quality sequences aren’t enough to save it.
1 1/2 out of 5
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