Primeval (US - DVD R1)
How could Gabe possibly be this bored by a giant crocodile movie? How indeed.
There is a giant crocodile named Gustav killing people in central Africa. No really, there is, like, in real life. In fictional life a hotshot news hound and his camera man are sent off with an up and coming sexy female news hound, a great white hunter, and a Steve Irwin-alike (all with zero character development) to investigate a fictional version of the great green lizard. There is political strife and small scale genocide in the area too. Things don't look good for our plucky band of stereotypes.
Primeval will probably be best remembered for its ill-advised ad campaign. Not content to stick solely with the exploitation stand-by of 'based on a true story', which has worked for years, the producers decided to keep the fact that the film was about a giant crocodile a secret. The ads proclaimed that the film was about history's most prolific serial killer. I hope that the word got out before a bunch of poor saps were disappointed that they weren't seeing the next Hannibal Lector or Michael Myers.
The film itself only spends about three minutes keeping its villain a secret, by opening with a crime scene investigation, which leads into a death scene that makes no sense. Maybe if the 'killer's' identity had been kept a little more ambiguous for the film's first half or third the campaign would've made a little more sense. As is, it just appears that Disney didn't want to admit they were releasing a film about a giant crocodile.
It's almost unbelievable how repetitive and boring modern monster movies can be. I mean, they're movies about giant creatures attacking people. I lived for this stuff as a kid. Primeval more or less shares its plot with Anaconda and Lake Placid, both much more entertaining films, and both of which are sort of off-shoots of the plot from Jaws, which may be the most ripped-off film in motion picture history. The characters are all brutal archetypes. There's the funny black guy, the cynical hero, the open minded, pretty chick, the smart but foolish environmentalist, and the hunter/guide with questionable intent. It's actually kind of embarrassing that people were willing to put time and money into a project this derivative.
But hey, we don't watch Godzilla flicks for their original plots and innovative character arcs, we watch them for the monster. So where the hell is the monster? I can't tell what's going on when you shake the camera so much. Seriously, stop cutting. You don't need to make sixty-seven cuts a scene. Maybe I just need to wait a while, maybe they're saving Gustav for a bang-up finale. Oh, there he is. Well, I guess he looks kinda cool. And he roars like a dinosaur? That's...neat.
Horror is a great place for politics, especially in the form of allegory. As a backdrop for politics it doesn't always work. It ends up looking indecisive rather than meaningful. Primeval is by no means meaningful, it's a monster movie put through the MTV filter. It's all flash and no substance, and sometimes that's okay, but only if a film is willing to run with it. The political drama side of the film is just as unoriginal as the monster movie side, anyway. It takes bits and pieces from just about every film about third-world civil war ever made. If you want to watch a horror movie that's serious about African politics rent Dust Devil, if you want to see a movie about giant Crocodilia eating people rent Alligator.
I don't want to get into the blatantly racist undertones of the film, but will say that it's been a long time since I saw a film featuring lead characters that take home a pet African man.
The flick may not be very good, but this disc looks spectacular. The film is super-stylized, like a commercial or heavy metal music video, but even when bathed in darkness or bleached with sun the transfer looks really damn good. Details are very crisp, without any noticeable edge enhancement. Noise and grain is only obvious when intended, like when we're shown DV or infrared footage. Colours are rich and vibrant. This is one of the better live-action discs I've seen in a while.
The film's audio is aggressive, as one might expect from a flashy music video. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is effective, only lacking a smidgen on the bass front. The surround channels are constantly abuzz with obtuse sound effects and a brutally average musical score. The crocs ridiculous battle cry will most likely startle your cat, and every line of Dominic Purcell's embarrassed performance is perfectly clear and cantered.
Fortunately for me there aren't too many extras to sit through. Unfortunately for me the first extra is a feature length commentary track. The last thing I wanted to do was sit through the film again. Fortune shines again when I realize the disc was sent to me kind of late, and that time restraints dictated that I simply skim through the commentary rather than sitting through the whole thing. At least that's what I told myself. The track features the director and his effects supervisor. The track is a bit lethargic, but informative. It's good to know that these guys at least tried to make a scary message movie.
Next up is a Croc-umentary (their words, not mine). Ahem. This is a brief featurette that spends more time on special effects than anything else, which is okay because there's a commentary track for those honestly interested in the production. The digital croc is actually pretty impressive for a medium budget production, and the effects men are good at explaining their craft.
The deleted scenes are par for the course and needed to be deleted. Once again, director and effects supervisor. Not found on the set is a collection of the purposely misleading trailers and TV spots. I wonder if BVHE is regretting that one enough to pretend it never happened.
I was willing to give Primeval a chance, despite the stupid ad campaign, because I like monster movies, but it's no better than the dozen or so already available straight to video or on the Sci-Fi channel. I feel sorry for everyone involved. Everyone tries their best, but it just isn't good enough. Entirely forgettable, and this is coming from a guy that absolutely loves Deep Blue Sea.
The funny thing is that actor Dominic Purcell is exactly where I left him when I last saw him in Grave Dancers, in an SUV, screaming while driving away from a monster.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Release Date: 1st January 1995
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Extras: Director/Effects Supervisor Commentary, Croc-umentary, Deleted scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Michael Katleman
Cast: Dominic Purcell, Brooke Langton, Orlando Jones, Jürgen Prochnow, Gideon Emery
Length: 94 minutes
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