Bigfoot should sue. Once, he (or 'it', you're choice) was the spokesman for '70s supernatural awareness, a real life version of the make believe monsters that Hollywood frequently forced our way. Between TV specials and exploitation films (The Legend of Boggy Creek, among the best) he was an A-list beast in a b-movie world. Now, he's a supposedly living joke, an overdone dinosaur for any Tom, Dick, or Talentless with a camera, some cash, and a worm ridden monkey suit to overuse and exploit. No longer the missing link, he's the reason for incredibly crappy efforts like Primal. Purporting to be a splatterific scare fest overloaded with Sasquatch terror, what we wind up with is one of the most amateurish affronts to cinema ever conceived. It's enough to get your typical Yeti scanning the Yellow Pages for free legal advice.
When a group of college kids stumble upon the stomping grounds of a local skunk ape, the beast eviscerates the lot of them. Fast forward a few months, and a new group of potential victims again violate the creature's domain. They include a know it all leader, a couple of snarky females, a guy and gal desperate for a hookup, some simpleton schlub who brings a gun on the expedition, and a couple of too cool dudes who find the entire outing far, far beneath them. As the get picked off one by one, Bigfoot broaching their underfed physicality with ease, another pair comes up the mountain looking for the park ranger. He's the girl's absentee brother, and she hopes to lure him back to civilization to see her wedding. Of course, he'll have to battle the Primal instincts of the local legend to do it.
When it comes to homemade horror movies, Primal is a great big batch of pickled turds. It's a hackneyed excuse for terror that doesn't understand the first thing about film. As a genre or means of cinematic expression, it is obvious that writer/director Steffan Schlachtenhaufen just doesn't get horror. He believes that one note characters, thrown into a vague and unexplained situation, can be made macabre by simply adding some guy in a gorilla suit. While the credits proclaim the individuals in charge of the creature effects, it looks like something the local costume shop rejected as too ratty. Our fiend never looks realistic, barely functions as a source of evil, and ends up spending more time onscreen than the majority of the cast. Add in some Commodore 64 CGI, a horrendous post-production effect (it renders the attack scenes like old fashioned silent film footage - huh???) and you've got the most trying direct to DVD experience since Disney stopped making their unnecessary animated sequels.
It's not just that Schlachtenhaufen fails as a filmmaker. There are parts of Primal AS SCRIPTED that just don't add up. When our park ranger reconnects with his sister, there's an unspoken secret that no one wishes to discuss. When the pair finally finds time to talk, it turns out that the mystery is a McGuffin - a way of keeping us semi-aware that these characters are indeed related. It's the same thing with the whole 'gun' subplot. Our supposed hero, placed in charge by a corrupt oil company with an unexplained, ambiguous purpose, goes absolutely buck when he discovers a pistol in his midst. A lot of hand wringing and facial contortions later, the weapon becomes both a source of plot twist stupidity and a dumb denouement. Like the 'Missing' poster menagerie in the ranger's office to the opening act confrontation with the beast, Primal never pays off on anything it sets up. Instead, Schlachtenhaufen gets his incredibly amateurish cast to cough up his incoherent dialogue before moving on to another pointless Yeti sequence.
If there was just an ounce of cleverness, the smallest amount of kitsch or camp value, we might be able to cotton to all the otherwise unsure elements. From its fragmented feel to the complete lack of convincing gore (note to crew: throwing red Kayro on everything is merely the literal interpretation of the term 'splatter'), Primal can't pass itself off as anything. How incredibly ineffectual dung like this makes it onto a legitimate (or in this case, Lionsgate) DVD stands as one of the format's most flummoxing aspects. It's not like there's an untapped fan base for marginal movies like this, and the people producing such crud can't possibly believe they are making something marketable. So clearly there is some manner of deal with the digital Devil going on here, a first rate flim flam that leaves senses reeling and your aesthetic aching. Had he just tried to make a standard Sasquatch film, complete with hillbilly hokum and Weekly World newsworthiness, Schlachtenhaufen could have ended up with something vaguely entertaining. As it stands, Primal is so bad it's bewildering. It makes you question the sanity of those involved - and anyone who'd want to watch their efforts.
Presented in a 1.33:1 full screen image, Primal doesn't look half bad. Of course, this means it doesn't look half good either. While the location footage is colorful and evocative, the horrendous IMac effect used to foreshadow the creature attacks is terrible. It just doesn't fit, and announces the proposed scares long before we actually get to the shocks. Schlachtenhaufen is not the most skilled filmmaker, and his pedestrian shot selection really underlies this film's flat, lifeless look.
On the sound side, we are given a basic Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that's light on immersion and heavy on discernible dialogue. There is minor dropout in a couple of key moments, and the actors fail to fully enunciate some of the time. Yet overall, the audio element here is acceptable - especially when you consider the offal being supported by such tech specs.
Luckily, aside from a few preview trailers, this disc offers no added content. It's perhaps the best part of the overall package.
It's easy to dismiss a movie like Primal as being the poorly accomplished byproduct of some feeb's wildly inappropriate ambitions. It just has absolutely nothing of value going for it. Yet a quick glance at Steffan Schlachtenhaufen's IMDb page indicates a healthy career as a production assistant. From A Mighty Wind and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl to Van Wilder, he's been involved in some fairly high profile efforts. This doesn't excuse Primal, nor does it explain it. All one can do is say Skip It and go on with their life. And here's hoping Bigfoot is successful in any future civil action. After a movie like this, whatever good name the prehistoric throwback had has been damaged irreparably.
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