Primal Review

Primal (2010)

Starring: Zoe Tuckwell-Smith, Krew Boylan, Lidsay Ferris
Directed by: Josh Reed

The Premise

A small group of friends venture out into the Australian jungle for a firsthand account of a mural of rock paintings. It's all fun and games until a mysterious sickness claims one of the friends and they are left to deal with the after effects: a savage blood lusted cannibal creature.

"I truly hope this trip was worth it and doesn't come back to bite us in any way, " said nobody.

The First Stitches

Primal begins with a shot of a prehistoric setting, 12,000 years ago. A lone native is painting a mural across a cave wall when suddenly we see another unidentified person behind him. In quick fashion, the unnamed native is slaughtered mostly off screen, leaving a bloody hand outline on the rock.

The titles then run as if time hit the meth pipe as it fast forwards to the present. After a gnashing of teeth, we see a small gang of friends are headed to said caves in hopes of seeing the very same paintings, which were discovered 120 years ago by one of the friends' greatgreatgreatgreat uncle (or something like that). As they speak about what a fruitcake he was, the shot jumps sporadically to an unnamed individual (presumably the greatgreat...yeah, you know what I mean) as he dispatches small feral-looking sharp-toothed children with blood stains around their mouths, because HE's the one that's gone nuts and all. The friends continue their banter until they come to an abrupt stop. A picture slapped onto the windshield and pseudo-dramatically removed reveals they have reached their destination and the mountain they are looking for is just in the distance.

That is not how you make a hand turkey. You, sir, are doing it wrong.

Mending the Seams

Plot: Story wise, I was intrigued by this movie up until about the 30 minute marker when it became the "Stupid Decision Fun Time Hour" and they characters began to argue between each other about staying to see some 12,000 year old paintings that haven't been seen in a century (small potatoes when you think about it...) versus getting their friend who has become obviously sick and in need of medical attention. In the end, the arguing was for naught anyway as they're pretty much left stranded anyway, thanks to a nice swarm of pixel bugs. This is also around where the story pretty much falls apart and the movie delves more into gory action and in some cases, really shitty CG, especially in the scenes before the mostly underwhelming ending.

Characters: One of my biggest gripes about this movie is that the characters just weren't very interesting. That is to say the only one I actually liked was also the one that became the leading antagonist for the majority of the film. There were a couple more that I didn't really "dislike", but still didn't find myself rooting for them to live to the end.

You had me at "GGNNYYAAAARRRR!!!"
As the movie begins, we figure out pretty quickly that the cast is split up into two couples and two spare wheels: Mel and Chad (Krew Boylan and Lidsay Farris, respectively), Kris and Dace (Rebekah Foord and Wil Traval, respectively) and finally Anja and Warren (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith and Damien Freeleagus, respectively). Each character has a pretty easy to define personality. Mel is the sort of fun, easy going hot chick. Chad is a useless emo. Kris is...there. Dace is the alpha male. Warren is the slacker and last but not least, Anja is the strong but fragile female lead with more hangups than a box kite in a pine forest.

Of the group, my favorite was Mel. Even after becoming sick, she was probably the most interesting and amusing character. The delightful, almost sudden transition between cute, but naughty blond to feral, gingivitis ridden killer was performed a lot better than I had originally expected. I feel this character was easily the best in the movie. Warren was somewhat fun as well, especially during the campfire scenes. As a general overview, he was a bit of a douche, but as he gets more screen  time, his character fleshes out to be that big kid everybody tends to love hanging out with, but don't want to let crash on their couch.

My overall least favorite character was Chad, as he was just so fucking annoying. Every scene involving this character pretty much depicted him as a sad waste of space, a selfish, whiny human being who had no real business being with a group out in the wilderness where TEAMWORK IS ESSENTIAL. He was the character you WANT to die as soon as possible.

Setting/Atmosphere: Considering I don't see many movies set in Australia (the last was probably Road Kill), I did like the change of atmospheric pace. I certainly enjoyed the dense packed flora along with the jungle mist that seemed to reinforce that "long way from home" feeling. During the night scenes, the moonlight barely penetrating the trees worked wonders towards making the situation feel hopeless.

Pretty sure this was supposed to be foreshadowing...

Special Effects: The best effects in this film were by far the gore scenes and physical mutations/deformities. I feel this movie did a fantastic job with the practicals. Among my favorite effects were Mel's mutation and the first fight scene. I felt a little let down by the CG effects in this film. The plastic and rubber eating jungle bugs were almost unnecessary, feeling more like contrived plot devices thrown in to keep the characters stuck in the wilderness.

My absolute least favorite moment was ***SPOILER*** the cave scene around the big monster reveal. This whole chunk of scenes stunk of poor acting and a lame 12,000+ year old monster (which really didn't need to be in the movie to begin with) that for some reason can hold a grown human being down effortlessly, but can't get through a pair of denim shorts when it's trying to rape its victim Evil Dead style. There was also a continuity issue during the moments when Anja runs into Kris, initially there is nothing wrong with Kris (physically), but literally one or two camera jumps later and she has a huge prehistoric nematode baby bump, complete with 3/4 formed tentacled jungle leech fetus. I'm calling shenanigans on this... ***END SPOILER***

Music/Audio: The audio aspect of the movie was adequate, but not exactly captivating. With elements like an  unnecessarily loud jump scare and somewhat out of place metal band over the opening credits, I found myself feeling a bit turned off, initially. There were a few redeeming qualities, though, such as Warren's horrible singing (it was unapologetic in a good way) and guitar playing (which wasn't that bad, actually) and the gore related sound effects. Even some of my least favorite scenes are more bearable due to a perfectly sickening wet slap or a brief, well-placed orchestral riff.

Luckiest leeches ever. Mel on the other hand...not so lucky.

The Binding Stitch

All in all, this movie was a bit of a letdown. There are a lot of nice qualities to it and there was an obvious effort put into the production, but in the end it falls a bit flat. I wouldn't outright call this a miss, though, as it is still an enjoyable film. I would suggest checking for availability on Netflix or through your favorite rental outlet first before considering purchasing, unless you're able to find in a bargain bin.

Le sigh...

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