I love Australian cinema. I am completely, unabashedly enamored by it. But what I really love is the exploitation, or “ozploitation” in this case. We had our fair share of exploitation on these shores but we never did it with as much charisma and audacity as the Australians did. I mean, these people really risked their lives for their work and that is clearly seen on screen in films like STUNT ROCK or THE MAN FROM HONG KONG. Ozploitation has had a recent resurgence of sorts, partially due to the indispensable documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, and some of the films emulating this era of filmmaking are quite good, just see WOLF CREEK (our review) and THE LOVED ONES (our review) for examples.
Sadly, PRIMAL is not only a bad example of what ozploitation should be but it is an embarrassment. The fact that the DVD cover is even adorned with the term ozploitation is akin to someone taking a kangaroo sized shit on the filmography of Brian Trenchard Smith and then setting it on fire. Check out the trailer below and save yourself 90 minutes:
PRIMAL is your typical “young people go into the woods, have fun (i.e: copious fornication), piss off nature and start dying” movie. We’ve definitely seen this all before. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. A concept can be done over and over again as long as something fresh is brought to the table, but there is nothing “fresh” about PRIMAL. It is as stale as a dead hooker (in or out of a trunk). If it tries to do anything unique, it’s that one of the female characters starts changing into some sort of saber-tooth tiger-esque beast, hence the title. It’s all so underdeveloped that none of that really ends up mattering, her transformation exists more as an excuse for other characters to die than for anything else.
As much vitriol as I intend to spew at this film, I have to give some credit where credit is due. If I can say anything positive about this film, and it may be the only thing, it’s that it looks really good. And by looking really good I’m talking about the actual footage, not the fucking god-awful excuse for CGI that plagues the film. The actual establishment shots of landscapes are quite beautiful as are some of the closeup shots — especially well executed shots of cave interiors. This is actually more-so the norm than the exception with Australian cinema though, for some reason their films look better than most. I don’t know where they’re training their cinematographers, but Hollywood needs to start doing some serious outsourcing.
Now on to everything else, and I mean everything else. Jesus Christ this film has issues. For starters, the script is just bad. It’s not even that it doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t, but the characters are not established and there’s no real structure to speak. Well, maybe that last part is unfair, I mean, it does have three acts so they at least got that part right, go figure.
Still, there are moments during conversation where it seems as if a character is talking to a completely different character than they are. This could have been a problem brought about in the editing process but I’m assuming that it started in the script. Of course, the script is not everything in a horror film and usually we hope that the director can rise above a script’s shortcomings. Well, unfortunately, Mr. Josh Reed decided to write AND direct this one.
As mentioned previously, the other big problem is the CGI work. And I don’t mean that in a “I only like practical effects, death to CGI” kind of way. This CGI work is just BAD. There are times where the backgrounds legitimately look like they were made out of a Windows 98 screensaver template. About 50% of this film has a shoddy green screen generated background. I don’t know why, or how, they managed to be this inept but it is overbearingly distracting. And this isn’t even taking into account the wonderful CG creature effects that look like they belong in the trash bin of a film from The Asylum. They’re so bad that even MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS would be embarrassed to contain them.
If you have any interest in seeing this I imagine it is either because you’re a.) a genre completest, b.) looking for the next “so bad it’s good” movie for your drunken Tuesday move night or c.) a flat out cinematic masochist. I really can’t even recommend viewing it for any of those reasons, but the choice “b” is probably the most reasonable, especially if you turn it into a drinking game. Taking a shot every time there’s bad CG could flatten even the most seasoned of alcoholics.