June 12, 2007
There’s something about a horror film that is based on an actual incident that makes it much more terrifying because in the back of your mind you’re thinking, some part of this actually happened – The Exorcist (1973), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and, more recently, Wolf Creek (2005) all have a toe in reality. The latest horror film to be inspired by real events is Primeval (2007), about a 25-foot man-eating crocodile in Central Africa.
After a world famous forensic anthropologist is brutally killed by a killer croc, Tim Manfrey (Purcell), a veteran television producer is assigned to cover the story after he screwed up on a previous, high-profile one. Accompanying him is Steven, a cocky wisecracking cameraman (Jones) and a pretty but lightweight T.V. reporter, Aviva Masters (Langton). They arrive in Burundi in the midst of a bloody civil war (currently observing a tenuous truce) and hook up with Mathew Collins (Emery), a croc expert who thinks he has a surefire way of capturing Gustave (as he’s known by the locals) alive.
The team enters Gustave’s turf and enlists the aid of an expert guide played by Jurgen Prochnow in the Captain Ahab/Quint role. His character, Jacob Krieg, takes them deep into the croc’s backyard. Tim and his crew find themselves covering the civil war while they wait for Gustave to make his presence known. Pretty soon it becomes obvious that Collins and Krieg have opposing views on the croc: the former wants to take him alive to study while the latter wants him destroyed based on a very personal vendetta. After their military handlers double cross them, the team find themselves stranded out in the middle of it and Gustave proceeds to pick them off one-by-one. If he doesn’t get them then there are always the government troops or the rebel insurgents.
As if Dominic Purcell doesn’t do enough running in the Prison Break T.V. show, he’s constantly on the run from the croc, the rebels and the government in Primeval. Fortunately, all of his hard work on the popular show has kept him in good shape. The croc effects are fantastic as Gustave looks ferocious and every bit a relentless killing machine. For a B-movie, the filmmakers certainly put their money in the right place. Primeval adopts a sun-burnt look that expertly conveys the oppressive heat and sun of the area. The camerawork is appropriately visceral, especially during the film’s numerous action sequences, wringing tension out of every second.
The dialogue is pretty clunky, especially early on, as there are a few cheesy jokes substituting croc for the word, “cock,” and some lame attempts at character development. Although, for all of its clichéd dialogue, the script actually tries to push through a political statement about genocide in Africa that is contained inside a monster movie made in the same vein as Anaconda (1997). In other words, don’t mess with primal forces of nature. The depiction of Africans is borderline racist as they are either superstitious types that the jaded, white people foolishly scoff at their “mumbo jumbo,” or brutal savages who try to kill said white people. Not to mention, the opening credits blatantly rip-off the ones from Se7en (1995). This isn’t a particularly good movie but not an extremely bad one either. Primeval comfortably resides somewhere in the middle.
“Crocumentary: Bringing Gustave to Life.” Amazingly, the film is rooted in fact: Gustave really exists and he was spawned (apparently) by a bloody genocide. The croc was completely CGI – a composite of several actual crocs. This featurette shows a scene as filmed without CG and then shows how the animal was then added in. The hardest thing for the SFX guys was creating realistic CG water to match the actual stuff.
Also included are three deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Michael Katleman and visual effects supervisor Paul Linden. These scenes just didn’t fit in with the rest of the movie and were rightly cut.
Finally, there is an audio commentary by Katleman and Linden. The opening scene with the first kill was difficult to do, according to the two men, because of the mud that was thrown at the actress playing the victim. It turns out that “the mud” was actually chicken crap. They praise Orlando Jones’ improvisation skills and express their frustration over specific scenes and how they would’ve liked to re-cut them. Katleman and Linden dish plenty of anecdotes of shooting in South Africa and the challenges of shooting there.