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Primeval (2007)

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Primeval (click for larger image)Starring Dominic Purcell, Brooke Langton, Orlando Jones, Jurgen Prochnow, Matthew Collins, Gabriel Malema

Directed by Michael Katleman


Primeval is “inspired by true events,” a phrase that is really nothing more than modern Hollywood double-speak for “the basic concept behind the movie is based in reality but we’ve fictionalized everything else.” Frankly, most modern movies that claim to be inspired by true events are even less fact oriented than your typical “ripped from the headlines” episode of “Law & Order.” In the case of Primeval there really is an impoverished African nation named Burundi that has been involved in a long-standing civil war, and somewhere in this nation’s waterways lurks a monster crocodile that’s eaten a whole lot of people. Everything else presented is pure bunk – in more ways than one.

As the trailers and commercial spots for Primeval have done an excellent job telling us, Gustave is the world’s most prolific serial killer with over 300 kills to his name. The same trailers and commercial spots have gone out of their way to avoid letting us know that Gustave is, in fact, an enormous man-eating crocodile. One has to wonder whether or not the choice to try and keep Gustave’s true nature a secret was a brilliant stroke of marketing or evidence that the studio had little or no faith in getting audiences into theaters to watch a movie about a killer crocodile, even one that’s “inspired by true events,” or that they just knew the film was lousy and decided to unload it into the cinematic dumping ground that is January. The way Hollywood Pictures pulled up stakes and abruptly (and unceremoniously) changed Primeval‘s release date from April 13th to January 12th with less than two weeks’ notice kind of gave me the vibe that the latter was probably more accurate. Now that I’ve seen the film for myself, I’m positive it had to have been the latter.

But first things first. Just who is Gustave? Having done my own research into the subject matter, I can tell you that Gustave is indeed a killer crocodile that has been terrorizing the riverbanks around Lake Tanganyika in Burundi, Africa. Gustave, who got his name from a French resident of Burundi, is one of the largest crocodiles ever reported at twenty feet in length and weighing around one ton. It’s believed that the three times larger than the average croc Gustave became too big to sustain itself on a typical crocodile diet and thus began eating people. An unconfirmed number claims that Gustave has consumed in excess of 300 fishermen and bathers. Some have tried to capture or kill Gustave only to lose their lives in the process or come away missing a few limbs. And since many of the commercials have gone on the record telling us that Gustave is “still at large,” they’ve already done the audience a disservice by more or less telling us how the movie won’t end. Now that part of the marketing was unquestionably asinine.

Primeval review (click for larger image)Well, guess what, everyone; turns out that the movie’s marketers got us with a double whammy. This movie about a killer crocodile that’s been deceptively marketed as a serial killer flick turns out to not even really be a movie about a killer crocodile. Primeval is really more of a liberal guilt trip thriller about African genocide and how the rest of the world, especially we affluent American honkies, just don’t give a damn about poor black people killing other poor black people. Gustave is more or less the catalyst to get the characters to Africa and only cameos briefly throughout the film. Right when the kill or be killed by Gustave part of the movie should be kicking in, the croc suddenly takes a backseat to the protagonists’ thoroughly lame life or death struggle with the ruthless henchmen of an African warlord. Imagine a really poor man’s Blood Diamond that just happens to also feature an enormous man-eating crocodile; that’s what Primeval really is. We’ll even be browbeaten at one point with an insipid monologue about how we’re all responsible for the creation of Gustave by not doing anything about the civil wars in Africa. Give me a break!

Dominic Purcell of “Prison Break” fame plays a Network News Channel (I guess calling it the Network News Network would have just been too hokey for the filmmakers) producer in hot water after a scandalous story he broke regarding a powerful Senator’s corruption turns out to have been erroneous. The NNC honcho decides to get him out of the country for a while by assigning him to a story about a killer crocodile in Burundi, Africa that just killed a humanitarian aide worker (as seen in the film’s effective opening sequence). His boss doesn’t just want him to fly to Africa and produce the story; he wants the croc captured alive in time for sweeps. Purcell is unhappy and thinks this fluff piece is beneath him. Right off the bat we got a major miscasting problem as Dominic Purcell’s physical scruffiness and often surly demeanor make him look and sound more appropriate for the role of a guy competing in the UFC Octagon than a character that is supposed to be a Peabody Award winning television news producer.

Anchoring the segment will be the network’s go-to reporter for animal related news items played by The Replacement‘s Brooke Langton. Her sole contribution to the film is to provide an easy on the eyes female. I’m sure it will come as no shock to you to hear that Primeval is yet another one of those movies where the two actors in the group with the least amount of personality get to be the two main characters almost entirely due to their being the most photogenic. Say what I may about the other characters I’m about to describe, none are as one-dimensionally shallow as those played by Purcell and Langton.

Of course, where would we be without the wisecracking black cameraman played by Orlando Jones? Ugh. Damn near every line of dialogue that comes out of his mouth is meant to be funny, and I’d reckon that the ratio of stuff he says that actually is humorous is about 20-to-1 against. He gets off about three or four that actually elicit a chuckle and one that is legitimately laugh out loud funny, but mostly he’s just obnoxious as the stereotypical wisecracking black sidekick who rarely takes anything seriously, even when face-to-snout with a giant crocodile. When Jones goes off on a comedic tirade about how much he hates Africa, he even tosses out a few lines about how in retrospect slavery wasn’t a bad thing after all because it got his people out of Africa. It’s embarrassing. As a matter of fact, one especially insulting scene has Jones trying to teach some African bushmen how to do a hip-hop beat with their native drums with no success, prompting his character to utter the line, “This is embarrassing.” Ten bucks says that was an ad lib.

Jones’ cameraman also gets to befriend a young African youth in a Nike shirt who speaks English and longs to travel to America. This young man will play a key role in their impending confrontation with armed thugs to the point of factoring into the plot almost more than the giant crocodile does.

The NNC trio joins up with the other two more members of their croc hunt upon arriving in Africa. One is an Aussie crocodile hunter clearly based on the late Steve Irwin. The other is Jurgen Prochnow playing one of those roles he can sleepwalk his way through. In this case he’s a local hunter who’ll serve as their tour guide and translator. But mostly he get into arguments with the crocodile hunter because the croc hunter wants to capture Gustave alive in this giant cage they brought, arguing that he wants to protect it from people like Prochnow, and, naturally, Prochnow insists that capture is impossible and the bulletproof (literally!) crocodile must be killed. Guess which one will prove to be correct?

They’ve all got bigger problems though. Burundi is in the midst of a civil war, although their NNC boss assured them they’ll be okay because there’s currently a cease-fire. They’d never know it since their boat is immediately shot at and they are given dire warning that where they are headed is in the vicinity of the local warlord known as “Little Gustave.” He’s such a heartless butcher that he nicknamed himself after the killer croc. He’s also the real villain of the movie – well, mostly his henchmen are.

Primeval review (click for larger image)Orlando Jones will go for a solo walk through the African brush to get some footage of the local scenery and stumble upon some of Little Gustave’s henchmen executing a family. Of course, he gets it on film and, of course, Little Gustave’s men will want that footage back and are willing to kill for it. The group will debate whether or not this footage is the real story they need to cover, not the crocodile, leading to a big discussion about world apathy towards African genocide. I hate to sound apathetic in my own right toward African genocide, but wasn’t this supposed to be a “nature gone amok” horror flick about a killer crocodile? Forget the giant, cunning, man-eating crocodile; Primeval suddenly decides it wants to be a socially conscientious thriller with sporadic appearances by a giant, cunning, man-eating crocodile. The script will devolve to the point that Gustave is just popping up in time to chomp one of the bad guys at just the right moment. Heck, Little Gustave’s thugs even generate more carnage than “the world’s most prolific serial killer” does.

But even the few and far between “nature gone amok” moments when Gustave does show up are almost guaranteed to disappoint, not just because the computer generated crocodile often appears obviously so, but because director Michael Katleman and editor Gabriel Wrye have co-conspired to make nearly all the croc attack scenes virtually incomprehensible to watch thanks to the one-two punch of jittery camera work and rapid-fire editing. It’s kind of hard to generate suspense or thrills when you hardly have any idea what is actually happening on the screen. The only moment in the entire movie where you get a really good look at Gustave in action that isn’t in any way obscured by either darkness, bad camerawork, or split second editing is near the end when it engages in a foot race in pursuit of Orlando Jones (despite real-life reports of Gustave being rather slow-moving due to its enormity). This was the most suspenseful moment of the movie for me as I was on the edge of my seat hoping that croc would catch Orlando Jones and chomp the hell out of him. Other than that, there’s only one genuine jump scare in the whole film.

Now I generally frown on people talking back at the screen in movie theaters, that sort of behavior being a pet peeve of mine that I myself have rarely ever given into. However, I couldn’t help myself with Primeval. When the little doggie that Brooke Langton had rescued from being used as croc bait early in the film, the same little doggie that we hadn’t see hide nor hair of for the last 40 minutes, came from completely out of nowhere at the end of the movie to jump into her loving arms, I openly began booing the movie. I don’t think any of the five other people in the screening would object to my having done so since I overheard all of them on the way out afterwards commenting on what a terrible movie Primeval was.

This film marks the first of two killer crocodile movies hitting theaters this year, assuming Dimension Films doesn’t just sit on the currently unscheduled for a release date Rogue. How Rogue will turn out remains to be seen, but I can safely say right now that if you only see one killer crocodile movie in theaters this year, make sure it’s not Primeval.

1 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.11 (18 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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