A Frightfest UK 2010 review
Directed by Josh Reed
Primal is a monster movie from director Josh Reed, which plays up to the idea that there are things older and scarier than we know about.
The film opens with an aboriginal man trying to convey the message that there is a dangerous creature around, before being quickly eaten by this curiously man-shaped primordial beast. Reed then takes us on an excellent 300 frame, 12,000 year journey (each frame painstakingly Photoshopped by himself) to modern day Australia, where a group of friends on a road trip make a stop at the exact same spot.
Naturally, before long, this group of friends finds themselves in a spot of bother in their not-seen-for-120-years Aussie Outback camping destination and they find out who their friends really are when things go from bad to worse.
The characters themselves are somewhat clichÃ©. Mel, the ditzy/sexually aware blonde (Krew Boylan), Chad the serious boyfriend who learns to stick up for himself (Lindsay Farris), Dace, the group’s alpha male (Wil Traval), Warren, the comedy relief (Damien Freeleagus), Kris, monster fodder (Rebekah Foord) and Anja, who has has to overcome a deep phobia from her dark past (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith).
However, with so little time really given to the characters before the fun starts, Reed can be forgiven for pigeon-holing the cast to help the audience identify with them, and the group dynamics are clearly laid out on the short drive to their camp.
The film itself is beautifully shot in a fantastic location; if we didn’t all know bad things happen when you’re out in the bush it would make a good tourism video, and despite the mostly un-fantastical setting, when things do get hectic the wire work provides just enough of a hint of super-human otherworldliness that it doesn’t feel too weird.
That said, the reveal of the ‘real’ monster is a bit of a let down and a CGI mess. The film would have worked just as well without ever showing it clearly.
Primal is, at times, hilarious, capturing perfectly both the good natured ribbing within a group and the situations where if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. In fact the script throughout is good with characters rarely making ridiculous mistakes and adapting to, albeit contrived, circumstances. The whole film sets up a fantastic delivery from Zoe Tuckwell-Smith in the last line of the film which will have you cheering and laughing in equal measure.
Dodgy CGI aside, the only bit that wasn’t very well done was the reasoning behind Zoe’s phobia. It’s discussed slightly in the film and hinted to in flashbacks (which admittedly allowed me to figure it out) but an extra couple of lines explaining exactly what happened to her would have made things much more clear.
Primal is the sort of film you’d both watch at the cinema and then buy on DVD to show your friends or watch again. It continues the tradition of good Aussie horror and with a The Descent sort of feel to it, I can easily see a sequel being enjoyable as well.