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Primal (2010)
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.

Primal



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