Friday, July 29, 2011

Primal and Turning on Your Friends: A Movie Review

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Director: Josh Reed.

Writers: Josh Reed and Nigel Christensen.

Waterborne illnesses around the world kill millions. If you are unlucky enough to drink contaminated water, then your chances of catching a disease like cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever are pretty good. In Josh Reed's first feature, the water turns people into blood-thirsty killers. Primal released in January of 2011 on DVD and this is an independent horror film from Australia. There are no crazed psychopaths in this film - like Wolf Creek, but there is an ancient terror residing in an ancient cave. That terror creates the tension and the moral dilemmas that hinders six friends like a bad case of stomach cramps.

This is a backwoods thriller, where Mel (Krew Boylan), Chad (Lyndsay Farris), Kris (Rebekah Foord), Warren (Damien Freeleagus), Dace (Wil Traval), and Anja (Zoe Tuckwell-Smith) set out on a trek to research some pictographs. These ancient drawings foretell doom and disease. Yet, these companions are unable to interrupt the warnings. Then a feral rabbit enters the picture and the infection begins. However, Reed's disease does not begin with these whisker laden creatures, but in the water. Here a stagnant pool holds an ancient illness. Once touched, the waters create a fever first in Mel, but later in others. Much like the diseases mentioned above, there is a fever and in the film the disease is much worse than cholera. Mel sprouts fangs, while losing any sense of self. Her impulse now is mostly for murder, while sometimes feeding a local cavern with her friends' entrails.

One of the more excellent elements in Primal, outside of the music, is the well drawn characters. Chad, Mel's boyfriend, understandably is reluctant to behead his girlfriend. His inability to set his emotions aside allows others to be torn to pieces. Then the major crux is delivered and the question is asked: could you kill your friends if your life was threatened? This is hopefully a hard question for most. Characters in the film have an equally hard time answering this question. As the body count rises, so does Anja's ability to say yes to this question.

Primal is full of gore, some interesting situations and a suitable climax. Most characters are bit at some point and the flow of blood is sometimes stomach churning. The raping cave is a first and the self-performed C section was a difficult watch. As well, the remaining campers find some interesting ways to foil several savages e.g. the tarp trap, and the use of fire. In the final scenes, the mystery of the cave is revealed, but not here. This reviewer would only warn those afraid of bloody birthing scenes to steel yourselves.

In every horror film there are a few stumbling points and thankfully, in Primal they are few. There is one scene that stands out as heavily flawed. Anja faces Mel in one of the earlier conflicts and actress Tuckwell-Smith is unbelievably laughing during much of this scene; the tension dissipates. Why was this scene not re-shot? Also, the conclusion is not summed up fully and this reviewer's eyebrow arched in perplexion several times in the final seconds.

Overall, Primal is a worthy watch, with lots of tense scenes. The music from Rob Gibson is well down and in synchronicity with the film. As well, the acting is great, outside of the scene mentioned above. There is bloodshed and there is something unique about watching a stationary cave cause so much terror and confusion. Reed's initial foray into the burgeoning Australian horror genre is an enjoyable time, which should be enjoyed by many more horror fans.

Writing/plot/characters: 7 (mostly likable characters, believable conflicts).
Pacing/conclusion/continuity: 6.75 (the pacing moves along at a good clip, the ending seems rushed and there are no noticeable continuity errors).

A review of this title at DVD Verdict by Gordon Sullivan:

Primal Reviewed at DVD Verdict

And at Variety (Joy Leydon):

Primal Reviewed at Variety

The film's homepage is here:

Primal's Official Website

For most horror fans:

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