Directed by Michael Katleman
Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment
There’s no question — the biggest predator walking this planet is not some prehistoric monstrous beast. It walks on two legs and has the power to reason, think, and generally fuck everything up. That predator is man. We screw shit up consistently. The water, the air, our own bodies, and most of all our lives and the lives of everyone around us. Just look at our hit-list thus far: war, global warming, poverty, those lame ass Fanta commercials (the only thing I wanta, wanta is to choke those chicks). I could go on forever. Several years ago the world did nothing as different political factions in Africa engaged in genocide. Countless lives were lost via machete and machine-gun, and most people were either unaware or simply uninterested. Violence not only breeds violence; it also creates monsters. That situation spawned the world’s deadliest serial killer — one who has over three hundred kills under its belt — a legend in Africa known only as Gustave.
Gustave is a twenty-five foot crocodile with a taste for human flesh. He wasn’t always such a behemoth though. You see, thousands of corpses were dumped into the river as a result of these horrid affairs. Gustave began feasting. Turns out he had the biggest appetite and grew to an outlandish size. A living monster that exists as yet another grim reminder of man’s hatred of man.
After an American doctor falls victim to this extraordinary creature, a news team and a wanna-be Crocodile Hunter set out to capture Gustave as a means to stop his rampage. However, our protagonists have a lot more to worry about than just the toothy beast. From the second their plane touches down in the mother land of unparalleled beauty, they bear witness to a society riddled with instability and rife with extreme acts of violence.
This is not your ordinary monster movie. While Gustave’s tale is at the heart of the matter, its atrocities play second fiddle to the murderous assassins who roam the countryside. Primeval is loaded with all manner of horrors. To shed any more light on the storyline would ruin it for you, so let’s talk about what works and what doesn’t.
Since the time of its release Primeval was met with sour review after sour review. In retrospect it is kind of a hard film to market. It won’t sit well with monster fans as the political strife that exists within the events keeps it from being your usual nature-run-amok romp, and it won’t still well for those looking for a dramatic film experience because of … well, because of the aforementioned twenty-five foot scaly killing machine. Who’s this flick for? If you look at the abysmal box office it did, the short answer is no one. Yet … I liked it.
The movie is beautifully shot with an incredible score (interview with music man John Frizzell here), and more than a few intense moments that culminate with some very splattery good times. Even though the subject matter is rather grim and deservedly so, director Michael Katleman handles the events in a way that never seems heavy-handed. In the end he reminds us all that Primeval is still very much a well-paced creature feature as each death or kill goes further and further over-the-top. What can I say? This flick worked for me. While I’m sure most will detest Primeval, as evidenced by initial theatrical impressions, maybe it can find its audience waiting patiently in DVD land.
As expected, given the film’s poor returns this home video package is far from stacking. The commentary with the director and special effects supervisor Paul Linden offers a great listen as the pair speak as if they were having the time of their lives bringing this tale to life despite the hardships and obstacles. From there we get three deleted scenes that in all honesty are actually alternate takes of what already appeared in the movie clocking in at around six minutes and featuring more filmmaker commentary. Nothing too juicy here except for an alternate kill, which, believe it or not, went on for far too long and came off as kind of silly. A wise cut ineed. Finally, the star of this package is a ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurette entitled Croc-umentary: Bringing Gustave to Life. As you would expect, this covers the trials and tribulations of creating a creature from scratch that’s completely CGI and making him appear to be badass. Two words: Mission accomplished!
So there you have it, folks. Is Primeval a great film? Hell, no. It suffers from many of today’s usual pitfalls, but it does offer a unique monster movie experience that elevates it just above the usual crop. Lord knows, there’s a helluva lot worse out there. Now if only we could get those annoying warbling soda peddlers to take a trip to Africa. That could make up for a lot of wrong in the world, no?
Commentary by director Michael Katleman and visual effects supervisor Paul Linden
Croc-umentary: Bringing Gustave to Life featurette
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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