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Primeval Print E-mail
Monday, 01 October 2007

Image Leading up to its release, “Primeval” was marketed as a based-on-actual-events, hardcore serial-killer flick. The trailer used flashes of gory imagery, appearing to be something between David Fincher’s “Se7en” and the newer “Saw” series. But “Primeval” touted itself as the granddaddy of all serial-killer movies, with its bad guy having racked up the highest body count in history, without ever being caught!

I consider myself a horror aficionado so I won’t lie; I was a bit curious. I didn’t hear a peep of positive buzz surrounding the film, so I opted to wait for the home-theater experience. Thank god. Red flag number one: There’s a crocodile on the cover. What the heck is going on? Where’s my wonderfully creepy and demented serial killer?! That mass-murderer would be a giant crocodile in Africa. Can you feel my disappointment?

Essentially a creature feature, “Primeval” attempts to recreate the essence of “Jaws” with elements of the Oscar-nominated “Blood Diamond” thrown in for side-plot purposes. Unfortunately, the movie fails to capture any of the horror, tension or political punch the aforementioned films posses, resulting in a goofy ride, filled with second-rate acting and special effects. After breaking a story that turns out to be based on bogus information, hotshot TV reporter Tim (Dominic Purcell) is demoted to an assignment in Burundi, a small country in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The mission: to find and capture the world’s largest documented crocodile, a 25-foot beast alleged to have killed over a hundred local villagers. Joining him for the ride are camera-man Steven (Orlando Jones), supplying a non-stop barrage of sigh-inducing one-liners, Aviva (Brooke Langton), a smokin’-hot, second-rate news reporter looking for her first legitimate story, and Matthew (Gideon Emery), renowned crocodile expert.

Taking place in pre-cease-fire 2005 Burundi, the news team is faced with a country that is torn by violence and civil war. In addition to finding the monster-croc, nicknamed Gustave by the locals, they must also tip-toe around the croc’s main feeding ground, controlled by a local warlord who has nicknamed himself Little Gustave.

Now joined by local-guide/croc-hunter Jacob (Jurgen Prochnow), and local teenage orphan Jojo (Gabriel Malema), the team sets out to catch and document the reptile. Using a steel-reinforced cage, specially designed by Mathew to bring in the croc without harm, the crew rigs the contraption with all sorts of high-tech surveillance equipment and a live goat as bait. Let the ridiculous fun and predictability begin! Well, I was hoping for ridiculous fun, but only received the painful predictability.

Based on the premise, I accepted that “Primeval” wasn’t to be taken seriously. , I was hoping for some glorified B-movie madness, complete with crazy human-munching death scenes and splendid corniness. Instead, the movie takes itself a little too seriously without delivering any sort of originality, fun, scares or either of the essential elements in a creature-feature: anticipation and tension. As their trapping game plan falls apart and Gustave knocks off the crew members one by one, you’re never really surprised or more importantly, entertained. The story and direction are uninspired, and combined with a B-list TV cast, this flick falls flat on its face. As a matter of fact, I still don’t have an ounce of hesitation or fear when swimming in crocodile-infested swamps.

Presented on a 25-GB single layer disc and utilizing the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 codec, “Primeval” actually looks pretty darn good. Filmed in 2.35:1 aspect ratio and taking full advantage of the lush African landscapes, cinematography and production value are of the highest quality. The transfer seems near flawless with plenty of vibrant colors, great shadow delineation and an overall highly detailed picture. My only picture-quality complaint is that due to the highly detailed image, the all-CGI crocodile sticks out like a sore thumb. His texture, movement, and overall presence within the space aren’t convincing, and took me out of the movie on pretty much every occasion he was on screen (assuming Gustave was male). These scenes are obviously the point and draw of the movie, so that makes them the biggest disappointment.

This is essentially an action movie, so sound design is intentionally over the top with lots of commotion in the rear-surround channels. Sporting an uncompressed 5.1 PCM track, Gustave’s scenes will rock your home theatre, with every bone-crushing chomp and snarl coming through clear and free of distortion. Dialogue heavy areas are nicely balanced with accurate presence and ambience. The PCM track is definitely a step up from the 5.1 Dolby Digital track, but no matter which one is chosen, you’ll find nothing notable to complain about in the audio department.

All the special features from the standard DVD edition are ported over and presented in 1080i. Appearing less than stellar, I can only assume that all the features were upconverted from 480i/p footage.

First up is a commentary track with Director Michael Katleman and Visual Effects Supervisor Paul Linden. Highlights include Katleman reflecting on the adaptation of the real life events, and the liberties he took with exaggerating certain aspects for dramatic effect.

Next up is a nine-minute featurette, or sorry, “Crocumentary” that explores the special effects and CGI work that went into bringing Gustave to the screen. Rounding out the list is a handful of understandably deleted scenes with optional commentary from the director.

Alas, even a solid audio/video presentation can’t nudge me to recommend this one. I wish I could say this is corny B-movie fun, but it isn’t. Big-Orlando Jones-munching, CGI-crocodiles just aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. Save your money and watch a double feature of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” and last year’s Oscar-nominated “Blood Diamond” and you’ll get everything this film wished it was.

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