Primeval (2007) Rated “R”
Starring Dominic Purcell, Brooke Langton, Orlando Jones, Jurgen Prochnow
Directed by Michael Katleman
Reviewed by Nicholas Ozment
Have you seen this movie?
The most interesting thing about Primeval was the advertising campaign. If you only saw the preview before watching it, you’d probably go in expecting a serial-killer horror flick.
The preview tells us, in fact, that that’s what it is: “Inspired by the true story of the world’s most prolific serial killer.” You’d never suspect from either the preview or the movie poster that this serial killer is not human, not even mammalian. It is a “cold-blooded killer” in the most literal sense.
The killer is Gustave, a preternaturally large crocodile that has been terrorizing tribes in Burundi, Africa for years. If Steve Irwin had tried to wrestle this beast, he wouldn’t have survived long enough to take his final swim with the manta rays, because Gustave is about the size of a Winnebago and gulps down humans in two or three bites.
I’m going to be nitpicky here and say a predatory animal probably can’t be sensibly labeled a “serial killer.” If the animal was systematically planning and performing the murders of other crocodiles, maybe it could apply. But no, this is an animal feeding on prey. The prey in this case just happens to be homo sapiens.
Our protagonists are a team of journalists who fly in to get the scoop on the killer croc, who’s been chowing down on hundreds of natives for years, but only now garners media attention because he devoured a white woman. Tim Manfrey (Dominic Purcell, whose performance never rises above wooden) is a cynical journalist who sees being assigned to an animal story as a demerit. Aviva (Brooke Langton), who has been doing stories on topics like feline leukemia, sees this as a big step up. Will they learn to work together (sigh)? They enlist a herpetologist, who brings along a big useless cage, and a great white hunter (whose wife, we learn, was eaten by Gustave, so he has a personal score to settle). We’ve seen better versions of all these characters before. None of them are particularly interesting except for the cameraman (Orlando Jones). He is the film’s high point, providing comic relief with his frequent quips.
Gustave is just one of the threats to our protagonists’ survival: the backdrop of the hunt is a Civil War that has turned the savannas into killing fields. When the crocodile isn’t trying to eat them, they’re being hunted by Little Gustave’s men. This warlord has been nicknamed after the crocodile: As one character informs the heroes early on, “It’s debatable which one is more cold-blooded.” Civil war, genocide, political intrigue in Africa?it’s like Hotel Rwanda with a giant croc. But not really.
One of the characters suggests that “we” made the monster — that the bloody conflicts along the Burundi/Rwanda border dumped so many corpses in the river that the croc developed a taste for human flesh. A postscript informs us that Gustave is still alive and hunting in the wetlands of Burundi. The back-story that “inspired” the film sounds far more intriguing than the film.
Primeval is not a horribly made movie; it’s just one that could have been made ten years ago, or twenty, or thirty. The crocodile effects are none-too-impressive, and the characters are mostly rehashed stereotypes. I’ve seen this movie fifty times before, and it does nothing new. Who wants to dish out good money to rent a movie you could catch any night on TV? Say, wait a minute? Now I see why they didn’t advertise it as just another giant killer reptile flick