A B-movie creature feature with a bigger budget than most similar efforts, "Primeval" managed to scare up $10M (while not a massive haul, not bad for a film with a small budget and what must have been no advertising, as I don't remember ever seeing an ad for its release) in business in a quick theatrical release earlier this year before heading to video as the Summer months get underway. As the picture opens, a relief worker is investigating what appears to be a burial site in Africa, but the dirt area by the swamps turns out to instead be the cover for a massive crocodile who's preparing a sneak attack.
Elsewhere, a reporter suffering from scandal (Dominic Purcell, "Prison Break") is forced by his boss to head to a war-torn region of Africa with a nature expert named Aviva (Brooke Langton) and his cameraman (Orlando Jones, painfully trying to provide the unnecessary "comic relief") in order to try and catch the beast, which has been snacking on the locals for ages, but only has now come to international attention when it grabbed the relief worker.
The group heads out with Matthew (Gideon Emery), a hunter and a guide named Jacob Krieg (Prochnow), as well as a few armed guards in order to protect them from the local militants, the group heads into the wilds to try and trap Gustave, the name the locals have given the croc. However, when Steven gets incriminating footage of rebels, the henchmen of a local warlord named Little Gustave (named after the croc) try to take them out of the picture before they get the footage to the authorities.
"Primeval" is a mix of message film and B-movie horror, a mix that doesn't work all that well. The film spends a larger portion of its running time delivering heavy-handed messages about the nightmares of African genocide, and while the situation is horrible and tragic, the movie itself throws out messages without really exploring the situation in any depth or providing any insights.
The horror side of the film does have its moments, as there are a bunch of "escape" scenes that, while predictable, still managed to be reasonably tense. The screenplay (by "Terminator 3" and "The Net" - and "Catwoman" - writers John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris) tries to be both a message movie and a monster movie, and the result is an awkward mix of the two, with the croc scenes surprisingly mildly outnumbered (especially for a movie about the crocodile) by the conflict with the warlord.
As for the croc, it doesn't look too great, but at least it looks like a croc when it's actually visible on-screen. Maybe budget issues or time issues (or a bit of both) kept the filmmakers from giving the croc more screen time and a more detailed presentation. Still, this film does look slicker than the average low-budget horror flick.
The performances are adequate (especially considering some of the dialogue the actors are working with), with Purcell and Langton doing decent work with characters that are hardly developed. Jones is okay, but the whole comic relief aspect of the character felt out of place with the rest of the film. Prochnow ("Das Boot") has certainly been better.
Overall, "Primeval" offers a few moments and some decent performances. Seeing it on the small screen and putting myself in the mood for a B-movie monster flick (one of the film's uninintentionally funny B-movie elements is how the croc seems to often know to go after the bad guys first, then the "heroes" second) helped, although the picture still has the big-as-a-croc issue of feeling like two very different films glued together.
Apparently, based on a true story.
VIDEO: "Primeval" is presented by Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality was first-rate throughout the show, with excellent sharpness and detail. The African locations are beautifully captured here, and the prsentation doesn't show many flaws, as only a few slight edge halos were spotted. The film's color palette seemed accurately presented here, while flesh tones looked natural. Overall, a very nice transfer of the material.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was pretty entertaining, as the scenes out in the wilds provided a good deal of ambience and sound effects coming from the surrounds. Some of the more intense moments with the croc put the rear speakers to nice use to provide a more enveloping experience. Audio quality was just fine, with clear dialogue and crisp effects and score.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Michael Katleman and FX supervisor Paul Linden, deleted scenes and "Crocumentary" featurette, showing how the croc was created.
Final Thoughts: "Primeval" offers some moderately tense moments featuring the croc, but the other part of the film, focusing on the situation in Africa, offers no insights into the situation and feels out of place in a creature feature like this. The DVD offers excellent audio/video quality, as well as a few nice features. Still, "Primeval" gets only a light rental recommendation for B-movie fans.