Primeval (2007)
By: Devon B. on August 13, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Disney (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Polish DD 5.1, Czech DD 5.1, Hungarian DD 5.1, Russian DD 5.1, Ukranian DD 5.1. English, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, Ukranian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian subtitles. 90 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Michael Katleman
Starring: Dominic Purcell, Brooke Langton, Orlando Jones, Jurgen Prochnow
Screenplay: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Most of the time I can pretend I'm not an obsessive horror fan. It's rare that I get excited about a movie before it comes out, and until I was researching Black Water, I didn't even know Primeval was being released. Mixed reviews kept me somewhat at bay, but something happened; the movie ate away at my subconscious and I began having dreams about Gustave, the source material for Primeval. As my obsession with the movie grew, my better half got more and more annoyed at my delirious rants about Gustave and insisted I just watch the movie. Ah, but the problem: Primeval was not a reasonably priced DVD, and I knew if I waited the price would drop and drop and drop. It just wasn't happening quickly enough for all concerned, but then one day I found a copy for $10 and when I started debating if that was too much my wife punched me in the face. A quick ice pack and $10 lighter in the wallet later, I found myself finally watching the film.

Primeval didn't get rave reviews, but part of the problem a lot of people seemed to have was that the film was marketed like it was about a serial killer, when in fact it's about a giant crocodile. Now, any sensible person would be delighted when they went to the theatre to find the movie they were going to see was actually about Gustave the crocodile, so I wasn't paying too much heed to all these write ups by nonsensical reviewers. I will concede that Primeval isn't just a straightforward croc movie, though.

For those sadly uninformed, Gustave is a roughly 6 metre Nile croc known not so much for his size but for his man-eater status. The number of his victims is disputed, as Gustave may have just been feeding on massacred people left in his territory, but most sources I've found credit him in the triple digits. Gustave is naturally feared in his territory, and also naturally worshipped by me.

Primeval begins with a journo who's made a big boo boo being forced to do a story with a woman he doesn't initially like, but who he develops a love interest with quicker than you can say The Jewel of the Nile. The newly formed news crew are sent to Burundi to try and capture Gustave with a Steve Irwin type. Burundi is having a cease fire during the civil war, so the crew are told as long as they stay out of local politics they should be safe. They're not in Africa very long when they find out there's also a warlord called Little Gustave who's very dangerous even if you're on dry land. Unfortunately, the crew end up with both big and little Gustave after them. Wait, did I imply you were safe from the croc on land? Well, actually, Big Gustave seems to fair quite well on land too. This is also based on fact, technically, as Gustave has been known to take people on walking trails, but part of the reason Gustave hunts people in real life is he's so big he's gotten slow. With the land speed Gustave displays in Primeval, he would be able to stalk cheetahs.

Another point of criticism the film drew was that people who knew it was a croc movie didn't like the civil war backdrop. Tough, I say. First of all, it's about time we saw a Nile croc eating people on screen. Second, what's wrong with a movie trying to be entertaining but also presenting legitimate, real life issues? Thirdly, Gustave is awesome, so shut up. However, to be fair, the croc action is very, very silly, and doesn't suit the more serious elements of the story. It's almost like two separate movies, maybe Hotel Burundi and Gustave the ADHD Crocodile, have been stitched together. Most of the effects work to bring Gustave to life is passable, but there are a few bits that are cringe inducing.

I'm not sure how I feel about Gustave's representation in Primeval. Given the backdrop of civil war torn Africa, this may have been a better movie if the croc element was played more realistically. While I'm all for ridiculous monster crocs running amok, it does seem almost out of place here. I won't go so far as to say the people disappointed this movie wasn't what they expected were right, as even a silly croc movie is better than a no croc movie, but Primeval doesn't seem sure of what it wants to be. Even in the more serious parts of the story, stupid, clichéd things and characters pop up, so it's not like Gustave's antics wreck an otherwise masterful piece of cinema.

Another interesting aspect of this movie is that it provoked discussion for some of its racial content. I'm not an overly polite guy, and would put most of this criticism and debate down to uptight, American PC prudes getting all bent out of shape because they think they should be. There is one line in the movie that I would question the intentions behind. It's played as a joke, but there's the potential that it was written by someone looking to absolve ancestral guilt. Earning the film my benefit of the doubt is another line that attacks America's blind eye turn towards the way Africa is being ravaged. This line is perhaps a little too directed, focusing on white America's complacence, but is also a valid, blunt cultural criticism.

While Primeval is inconsistent, it's certainly worth a look for croc enthusiasts, just be prepared for the evil that men do as a plot device.
Video
The print is clear and clean; I only noticed a handful of spots. The colours are a bit muted, but this is a stylistic choice.
Audio
Again, no complaints here. The audio is a 5.1 track, with bullets flying, piers exploding and jaws chomping in a vivid sound scape.
Extra Features
The DVD comes with a featurette, deleted scenes and a commentary. The featurette is roughly 10 minutes long and covers a bit of info on the real Gustave, which is good. There're a few deleted scenes with commentary by director Michael Katleman and special effects supervisor Paul Linden, which are mostly extended scenes including an extended ending. There's a bit more croc action, but it's not all fully realised as the extended ending was never finished. The main commentary also features Katleman and Linden. They're a talkative pair and do deliver a few amusing anecdotes, but there are still a few gaps. They discuss the difficulties of making the crocodile element realistic, and I understand what they're saying about it being more challenging, but that came across to me as them saying, "We could've made the movie better, but we were too lazy."
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
This is what I meant when I said Slash could've focused on more local horrors, so in a sense, Primeval is the exact sort of movie I wanted to see from Africa, except it's American. There was a lot of potential here, but the film falls a little flat. Worth checking out for croc movie enthusiasts, not so much for slasher fans like the ad campaign made out. It's a shame Big Gustave is played like a rampaging monster, because if he'd been treated realistically, Primeval could've been an edgy as all fuck horror movie. This is a difficult movie for me to rate because of its bi-polar nature, but when I stopped and thought about it, I enjoyed each movie element on its own, so I'm giving this a high score.

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