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DVD: Primeval (2007)Capsule Review FAQ
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1 (NTSC)

June 27, 2007



Genre: Horror / Thriller  
A bare bones news crew heads to Burundi and film the capture of a man-eating crocodile.  



Directed by:

Michael Katleman

Screenplay by: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
Music by: John Frizzell
Produced by: Gavin Polone

Dominic Purcell, Brooke Langton, Orlando Jones, Jurgen Prochnow, Gideon Emery, Gabriel Malema, Linda Mpondo, and Ernest Ndhlovu.

Film Length: 94 mins
Process/Ratio: 2.35:1
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:  English, Spanish, French
Special Features :  

Audio Commentary by Director Michael Katleman and visual effects supervisor Paul Linden / Croc-umentary (making-of featurette) / Deleted Scenes with director Michael Katleman & visual effects supervisor Paul Linden commentary

Comments :

Early ads made it seem as though Primeval was a serial killer flick set in Africa , but after the first screenings, audiences discovered the whole endeavor was just a killer crocodile flick with locals being eaten in shocking volumes by a 25 foot reptilian.

Well, sort of.

Set in war-ravaged Burundi, John Brancato and Michael Ferris' script also incorporates the blurry, warring military, rebel, and governmental factions that led to massive genocidal waves in the area, giving a straight B-movie plot some substance, a bit of exotica, and some topical references, and allowing the writers lots of wiggle room to develop their scenario of arrogant westerners thinking they can exploit some local tragedies for TV's sweeps week via a clean, surgical expedition by a stripped-down news crew.

So why does Primeval stink?

After a great opening third that efficiently sets up all the main conflicts – a croc nicknamed Gustav, arrogant Americans, suspicious locals, and an embedded great white hunter (Jurgen Prochnow, giving a shockingly real performance after wasting away for more than a decade in direct-to-video crap) who carries a predictable, deep personal secret – the script starts to miss out on important character bits and the usual pseudo-scientific blather that makes B-movies so much fun (though one verbose example is archived in a Deleted Scenes Gallery, albeit with no option to hear any audio from the ousted scenes without the director's commentary – a dumb decision supreme).

The filmmakers also forgot their original purpose is to show a big croc eating people. It happens a few times, but Gustav's midnight snacking is buffered by whole scenes that arguably belong in a socio-political thriller. You know the writers were trying to transcend the overall dumbness of the film's killer croc concept, but it stops the monster movie dead.

The DVD's effects featurette is very felicitous of the company and technicians who rendered Gustav, but not dissimilar to Tobe Hooper's zero-budget Crocodile (2000), after a handful of fleeting croc glimpses, when the creature is shown (because it has to be seen in full, in order for an attack sequence and film to actually work ), the film's tight production budget shows how more time might have yielded a better-rendered villain. The croc also moves too fast, and it's as unthreatening as Stephen Sommer's bizarre creature in Deep Rising – a slimy whatsit with tentacles that unfurl, lunge, and assault with the smooth precision of a sterile math equation.

Where the film slips into idiocy is traceable to the introduction of Jojo, a traumatized orphan who just wants to go to America (a goal supported by Orlando Jones, who promises to help, even if it means ‘shoving him up his own ass' to get him through customs and blindside Homeland Security). Jojo, like the grating gob Jimmy in Peter Jackson's King Kong, is pretty annoying, yet unlike his more verbose counterpart, Jojo was designed as a sympathetic character whose dialogue and bonding scenes were seemingly trimmed during the scriptwriting phase, or hacked out of the film to tighten an already lumpy pacing problem; we know the Americans feel Jojo is unique and worth their affection, but we've know idea why.

John Frizzell's score and Tim Walston's superb sound design are the real stars of Primeval , and convey chilling atmosphere and punchy Dolby assaults that will give the home theatre system a decent workout when played loud with a good subwoofer. Also worth noting is Edward Pei's fine location cinematography, and Gabriel Wrye's's tight editing that gets a bit too kinetic at times, but keeps important scene continuity.

The action scenes are well-handled, which is unsurprising, given director Katleman spent years in TV directing a diversity of shows, including the short-lived Karen Sisco series, but even the chase and combat scenes between local warlord ‘Little Gustav' and the Americans don't lessen the genre collisions that ran ahead of the script's original premise of a man-eating croc.

To find out more about John Fizzell's ethnically-flavored score in our exclusive interview, click HERE.


© 2007 Mark R. Hasan

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