Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Primal (2010)

What great teeth you have!

Many, many years ago, 12, 000 years ago to be exact, a primitive man is painting on a rock face until he gets attacked from behind by something unexplained. Fast forward to the present day Australia with six individuals trekking some ways out for those same rock paintings for one of their studies. The first sign of trouble hits when they park and take a shortcut. "There's something wrong with that tunnel, we shouldn't go through it," says Anja before she blackouts from a claustrophobic panic attack...or something else. "Some point, you got to get over this," says Mel as the rest still walk through and have her drive around alone. Hey, what are friends there for?

This begins somewhat innocently with random jokes and pokes of fun. It's obvious from the beginning which character has tenacity when the gears of horror start to grind, but the filmmakers still gave surprises as to who gets it apart from their originally perceived character archetypes. They ignore a strange animal attack, and then live it up with some love making, substance abuse and acoustic guitar playing around a fire--a bunch of hippies they are! Mel goes skinny dipping, only to come out of the water covered in leeches and eventually show signs of fever and bloody gums. Soon enough tensions flare about who should have done what or if they should leave or not, and in the process find out what they really mean to each other as friends and companions.

They discover more odd organisms when microscopic insects eat through objects. They can't get help till morning, except by then Mel gets transformed with superhuman strength and a long set of chompers. Survival mode kicks in for the rest of the film with a bunch of in-fighting, denials, ruthlessness and haphazard plans to make it out alive from their former friend Mel who now wants to eat them without mercy. It's hard to feel sorry for nearly all of the characters because most range from either being too general to just plain unlikable. Though there are a few setups with irony to give grin to their folly. And, of course, there's going to be blood and some gore when they get it to keep the lynch mob satisfied.

The beginning has a decent exposition that unfolds the events in a forward motion, though when it comes time for the survival aspect it jumps back and forth, causing the element of suspense to reinvent its own wheel. The monstrous woman randomly appearing and disappearing comes with some effective pop outs when she shrieks her head off, but starts to lose its impact when she's not given more to do beyond a few modes for awhile till someone else turns. The terrain isn't always used to their advantage rather than staying in a general, unmemorable area, which makes it rely on the characters to carry the events. This is going for the tried and true and it unabashedly knows it with a few scenarios of the tongue-and-cheek kind, as well as a few jabs at their own devices and storyline.

This requires you to keep bending your imagination the further it goes as potential explanations are only alluded to. Especially by its finale when a random, choppy looking CGI entity appears but feels physically misplaced despite being loosely hinted at earlier. That ambiguity might have been fine to leave room for mystery, but there aren't always enough substantial or diverting scenes in the meantime to make you forget about the technicalities when they're just running around to save their own skin or deciding if they should kill or not. It's not really ponderous or completely emotionally driven stuff to get you fully locked in because most of the characters by that point are showing less and less strength that you could possibly relate to and are pushing more and more away by being selfish, indecisive or whiny. Not really the most cinematic of times even with the humor and bloodshed, which carries it only so far. In "The Descent," for instance, they're working with and against each other but have a goal to get out to the other side, which you know they're not going to all make it but it creates more tension for its duration with their friends, the creatures, the terrain and the light at the end of the tunnel all competing at once.

There's some potential with "Primal" and it has some fun in the meantime. The dialogue doesn't make you want to slap your forehead like other pictures and the performers give out some serious effort for what they're working with, even if they don't always put everything they've got into it. And the picture quality looks pretty sharp and consistent with some inventive modes, if not always capturing the best vantage points.

Rating: 5/10

Director: Josh Reed
Stars: Krew Boylan, Zoe Tuckwell-Smith, Wil Travel, Rebekah Foord, Damien Freeleagus, Lindsay Farris
Link: IMDB

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