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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 165: Primeval

Attack of the gingivitis

It's been a while since I last reviewed an animal-based horror movie and with good reason. Most of them suck. I'm not talking about classics like Jaws or Cujo, I mean the shit avalanche of SyFy Channel movies like ice Spiders and Megashark vs. Crocosaurus. Those movies get a C-level star, spend 5 minutes on a story, and use about $50 to create a terrible CGI monster. It's entirely possible those movie would have been a lot better if the studios invested a little more time, effort, and money. The only way to find out is to watch a movie that does just that.

Primeval (not to be confused with the television show) is a 2007 film based off the true story of Gustave, a 20 foot man-eating crocodile in Burundi, Africa. The film stars Dominic Purcell (Prison Break, Blood Creek) as television news journalist Tim Manfrey and Orlando Jones (Evolution, The Replacements) as his cameraman Steven Johnson. Tim is linked to a falsified story about an elected official and is assigned to a story of a giant man-eating crocodile named Gustave in Burundi. He is joined by Steven and Aviva Masters (Brooke Langton, The Replacements, Sliders), a journalist who focuses on animal stories. When they arrive in the small African nation, they are warned of a dangerous warlord nicknamed Little Gustave. The country has been entrenched in a civil war for years between rival tribes. Their boat is attacked from the shore, but the group survives. They are met in a small village by their guide, Jacob Krieg, and wildlife expert Matthew. Their various attempts to capture Gustave fail with deadly results, but they are able to shoot him with a tracking device. While shooting scenic shots, Steven captures an execution by little Gustave. The guards protecting the group actually work for little Gustave and try to get the footage. Will they be able to survive the warlord and the giant crocodile?

Chew with your mouth closed

As far as creature features go, Primeval isn't that bad. It has a bigger budget, better special effects, and a more talented cast than most animal-based horror movies. The movie reminds me most closely of Anaconda with it's story based in an exotic location, good cast, and computerized giant animal. The movie attempts to include context to the local strife in Burundi which adds depth and danger to the story. It makes for a better viewing experience and doesn't make me want to rip my eyes out with a rusty spork. Usually a creature feature just throws an animal at you for an hour and a half. I could have actually used a bit more of the giant crocodile in Primeval, but I guess the “real” monster is little Gustave. That's fine, because it makes Primeval more of a legitimate movie, but when I watch a movie with a giant crocodile, I want to see that giant crocodile a lot.

Speaking of the giant crocodile, the CGI effects used to create the beast look decent. It's better than your typical animal movie, with more attention to detail, but it still looks heavily computerized. Perhaps that's why we didn't get to see it that often. The action is believable with more violence coming from people than the monster and there is a decent amount of suspense. The acting is good enough and makes for a better viewing experience. Orlando Jones is the comic relief and is able to get the audience to crack a few smiles. He had one line that absolutely baffled me, though. Something along the lines of slavery being a good thing because it got people out of dangerous Africa. WHAT?! How could someone write something like that, even if it is a joke. It's not Jones's fault, but that's just a crazy line and didn't need to be in the movie. 

Make 7 Up Yoursoh shit!

Primeval is proof that a horror movie based on a giant killer animal can be decent as long as it has a good cast, decent budget, and a story. Don't get me wrong, it's not like this movie is great or anything, it's just better than your average creature feature. I appreciate that they acknowledged the local civil war and used it to further the story. The special effects are decent and the acting helps carry the movie. There are some quality action scenes and a few laughs. While it's nothing great, Primeval is a decent watch and a lot better than your average animal movie.


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