Director: Josh Reed
review by Gary McMahon
It seems like almost every low-budget horror film these days tackles the subject of zombies, and they usually fail to bring anything new to the
blood-and-brains covered table. It's nice, therefore, to come across an Australian splatter flick that ignores the current zombie zeitgeist in
favour of something a little different - and, dare I say it, a lot more original than the usual walking dead scenarios.
Primal begins 12,000 years ago, with a primitive caveman
painting a mural on a cave wall. Something unseen slaughters him, and we are
then treated to a lovely montage sequence which visualises, in some style, the passing of time up until the present day. A bunch of students
arrive at the isolated cave, which is located deep in a forest at the base of a mountain. They are planning to examine and investigate the cave
paintings, which apparently haven't been seen by human eyes for 120 years. The group setup camp and discover that nothing is as it first seemed
on the site.
One of the girls, Mel (Krew Boylon), goes skinny-dipping in the lake and catches some kind of infection from leeches, which attach themselves to
her body. The leader of the group, Dace (Wil Traval), refuses to leave because he's waited a long time to study the cave paintings and is determined
to make his name with the academic paper he plans to write. But as Mel gets worse, and her boyfriend Chad (Lindsay Farris) starts to panic, Dace
realises that they need to get the girl to hospital. Unfortunately, the strange, unnaturally ravenous bugs which infest the area have eaten through
the car's tyres, and they are trapped there, at the foot of the mountain.
Mel, now in the grip of some deadly toxin, turns into a savage beast, regressing to a primal stage of evolution and savagely attacking the rest
of the group. Chad proves useless and is unwilling to hurt his girl. Another guy, Warren (Damien Freeleagus), is attacked and killed. Dace is
infected by the water himself, and his girlfriend Kris (Rebekah Foord), is game for the fight but ultimately not up to the task. So it is up to
Anja (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith), the claustrophobic victim of a violent ex-boyfriend, to step up to the plate and fight the titular primals to the death.
It all ends rather gloriously (well, sort of), with Anja entering the cave - the primals are scared to go in there - to confront the creature
that seems to be the root cause of all this mayhem, and despite some very dodgy CGI effects the ending switches from bloody plague film to pure
sub-Lovecraftian pulp. The last line of the film is a killer, involving the best use of the C-word I've heard for a long time.
Primal is a flawed film, suffering from variable acting, terrible computer-generated effects (but it does feature half decent prosthetic
ones) and matte jobs, and a script so full of holes and contrivances that if you sat down to examine it you'd laugh out loud. But the verve of
the direction, the sheer pace of the action, and the fact that it's a basically lot of fun saves this from being a forgettable B-feature. I enjoyed
the hell out of it, but I will add the caveat that I was in a particularly forgiving mood and more than willing to ignore the film's obvious
weaknesses for the sake of being mindlessly entertained.