Reviewbr> "There's something wrong with that tunnel, we shouldn't go through it" - Anja
Anthropology student Dace leads five friends into the Aussie bush to try and find some fabled Aboriginal rock paintings that will form the basis for his PhD. They locate the site and have to journey through a mountain in order to access it. This doesn't work for Anja who opts to drive around the mountain due to some deep seated claustrophobia. With the group re-united they set up camp and proceed to check out the paintings, which turn out to be a warning, something the resident experts are unable to decipher.
Later that night party girl Mel decides to go skinny dipping, much to the distress of her boyfriend Chad, but there's something amiss with the local billabong water. Mel emerges screaming from the water, she's covered with leaches, but that's not the end of Mel's medical ailments. She gradually reverts to a predatory state, what big teeth you have, and has a fixed agenda of prey on her mind. As things gradually spiral out of control Anja learns the only safe haven is the cave through the mountain, but what secrets might lurk in the cave? Let's go bush and see what denizens of the dark might be lurking.
Primal is one of those movies I've been waiting around for as the trailers promised a real good time in country for those who choose the dark path of cinema. While waiting, various other movies titled "Primal" were thrown in my direction but I stayed on target and finally gobbled up the real deal from the good folks at Umbrella Entertainment. Once again I was presented with the question, was the anticipation matched by the eventual movie? I have to say by and largely it was, if for the moment we forget the dodgy CGI in the penultimate scene. Josh Reed almost delivers a classic that had me on the edge of my seat for most of the movie as the debut Director threw on the movie Prey should have been.
Reed kicks off the movie 12,000 years in the past as an uncredited Aboriginal dude is painting next to a cave mouth. Seems he is creating a warning against visiting a "bad place" and is slaughtered by something unseen for his troubles. Nice touch by Reed when something red, blood or pigment, is splatted across the dude's hand leaving one of those hand prints you see in traditional Koori art. We rush forward in time, demonstrated with stop motion and changing flora, till we hit the modern age. Good establishment shoots, that not only lay the foundation for the archetypical "bad place" but also explains why the rock art has been undisturbed for a 120 years. Anja's forebearers certainly had to cull a few nasty inhabitants in settler times.
We then get to meet the meat in a sort of slasher style fashion, Reed is at pains here to distinguishes his different characters and avoid the issue of differing cast members merely becoming cypher cannon fodder. Dace is the take charge Anthropology student who will make wrong decision after wrong decision, Kris is his assistant and would be girlfriend who just wants to have babies, Mel is the blonde party girl who will provide the T&A for the evening, Chard is Mel's jealous and quite possibly violent boyfriend, Warren is the requisite obnoxious comedic element, and finally Anya is the claustrophobic chick who was kept locked in a basement by a previous boyfriend. Besides providing some standard horror archetypes Reed does throw on a few WTF moments, Kris the baby thing - really, wonder if that will be a plot foreshadow, Anya has a psychotic former boyfriend and isn't now wearing doc martens and overalls in Balmain! You can't say the Writers of this particularly blood drenched fable haven't gone over the top in character development of the twilight kind, don't adjust your sets kids.
The first block of the movie sets up our characters, the conflict they are being dropped in, and drops some juicy plot foreshadows. We know anyone hanging at the cave painting site has a good chance of either becoming a victim or quite possibly a future monster. A sort of primal werewolf for mine before the whole marsupial thing became popular. Did I mention we get the attack of the mutant fauna as well? Anyways when Mel takes her night time plunge things start to really get interesting.
Reed will certainly win some fans with this one but for mine loses it in the final block
The middle section of the movie focuses on feral Mel attacking her former friends, with a clear strategy in her mind that goes a bit beyond simply feeding an insatiable appetite. When another one of our team get changed it's not looking good. Director Josh Reed nails this part of his flick, it's dripping in menace and the soft of atmosphere we would expect from a modern monster movie earning its keep. Before I forget I really dug the lighting Reed utilises throughout, especially during Mel's skinny dip, loved the atmosphere going down there. While the entire second block is filmed at night, things are well lighted without the light source impeding our enjoyment of a rich tapestry of blood drenched delights.
I should also point out I guess it's during the second block of the movie that the Writers introduce the whole concept of kill or be killed, and frame it against primal savage versus modern civilised behaviour. Feel free to groove to the sub plots there, Reed doesn't push it however so you won't be left twiddling your thumbs till the good stuff rocks on again. The Director doesn't let up the pacing through the second and third acts.
Speaking of the third act, a whole bunch of apparent loose narrative threads get pulled together, showing a well-developed understanding of not wasting precious screen time. Whether or not
those threads work for you is another question of course. Unfortunately
Gorehounds are going to love this one, plenty blood and visceral flying around, I really dug on the makeup effects, and if after an Indie monster movie with a bit of flair, then this is the one. As stated there are no plot points left unanswered and I didn't note any plot holes that took me out of things. I anticipated the movie and got to say end of day it was worth the wait, Director Reed drops a "B" grade grenade into the playpen and takes no prisoners in doing so.
Surprisingly, or not given the amount of horror flicks we get through in any given year, I picked out two influences. Firstly Ridley Scott's Alien of all things is clearly happening. The rock painting is not being deciphered by our local experts, would have thought honking great figure chasing away a group of people was self-explanatory but what the hey! Like the alien signal the Nostromo picks up on it turns out the artwork is a warning, with similar consequences resulting and a ready-made escape pod in the form of a cave. The other influence I gleaned was Feast, a mildly interesting U.S Indie feature that some sectors of the dark genre audience wet themselves over.
Okay out of room, and so much more to discuss, some T&A going down for those wanting the full skinny. But not enough naked flesh to have the moral majority up in arms, perfectly safe for impressionable young minds, assuming here you have no problems with them dialling into a slaughter house.
I recommended this one right? Probably not the best Downunder horror flick I'm going to review this year, but it remains entertaining enough and relishes it's "B" movie label to the extent that I'm for sure going to catch another viewing over the weekend. I will then no doubt kick myself for having missed something.