Step right up, ladies and gents, and get a peek at the amazing three-headed undercooked movie! It's Primeval, folks, and it's a horror flick, an action movie and an unintentional comedy at the same time! But wait, there's more! Not only is this sad and somewhat sorry excuse for a matinee packing two more genre formulae than it actually needs, but it also hits the screens more than three months before its due date! It's a stompin', chompin' lunatic romp, my friends! Thrill at the unfinished CGI! Shriek at the outrageously silly crocodile footage! Chuckle at the downright ineptitude of the plot holes, the doofy dialogue and the egregious editorial mishaps! Hurry now, moviegoers, because Primeval is sure to vanish from your local multiplex in the time it took you to say "Wow, I've never even heard of this movie!"
And yet, despite all that, I still had a halfway-decent time with the 100-some minutes of Primeval, if only in a campy, kooky cheese-fest sorta way -- but what's a little bit irritating is that the flick has just enough quality components to make you annoyed the movie's not a whole lot better. Then again, you'd have to be a pretty big schlock-lover to be able to locate the few stray nuggets of giddy entertainment buried within such a half-baked movie. But they're in there, believe me.
Plot: A non-colorful news crew heads to South Africa in an attempt to get footage of (and yes, capture) a ravenous 25-foot crocodile who's been snacking on local villagers for the past several years. Our gang is composed of a non-descript and semi-shamed journalist (Dominic Purcell), a nubile nature documentarian (Brooke Langton), a wise-crackin' cameraman (Orlando Jones), a mega-grizzled Great White Hunter type (Jurgen Prochnow) and a smarmy little herpetologist who says things kinda like "We're here to capture this unstoppable eating machine alive!"
Our cast is summarily plunked into the unfriendly South African landscape, entirely content to rattle off cliche after cliche as their numbers are gradually thinned by a reptile who's as hungry as he is invincible. (Who knew crocs were bulletproof?) Screenwriters Michael Ferris and John Brancato earn points for introducing a half-interesting subplot involving a local warlord who's even more bloodthirsty than the crocodile, which enables Primeval to break out with a handful of surprisingly energetic action scenes ... but wasn't this supposed to be a monster movie?
First-time feature director Michael Katleman brings a grim slickness to the affair, a gritty sheen that belies the filmmaker's numerous years working for network television, but Primeval is neither scary nor gory enough to generate much enthusiasm among the genre faithful. For every half-decent sequence or unexpectedly witty line of dialogue, Primeval delivers at least two scenes that you've seen before -- and in much better movies. (Also on the plus side, John Frizzell's moody score is quite a bit more engaging than a B-movie like this really deserves ... but hey, we horror freaks will take what we can get when mid-January rolls around.) But just wait till you see what happens right after the tough-guy hunter-man mentions that that damn croc once ate his wife. Ben Stiller was never this funny.
The biggest complaint you'll most likely hear about Primeval is that of its outrageously underwhelming CGI effects. A few moments with the croc are suitably icky and dark, but whenever the beastie decides to thrash around or actually chase a screaming victim, your eyes won't be able to dismiss the particle-speck tackiness of the movie's (generally rotten) FX work. For this we can probably blame Disney's last-minute decision to bump Primeval from April to mid-January. A few more months in the computer workshop (and, okay, the editing booth) could have done wonders for this wacky little movie.
Bottom line? If you have a real soft spot for the horror sub-genre known as "Animals Gone Loco!" then you can definitely consider Primeval worthy of a mid-week DVD rental. As far as a big, expensive night out at the movies is concerned, please. You have better things to spend your money on.
Plus that rotten croc will look a lot better on the small screen.