13 July 2012


I am finding myself more and more getting into Australian horror films and leaving the viewing with a sense of satisfaction. The truth is I watch a lot more movies than I get around to reviewing. But I could easily increase the number of films for my Australian Horror category if I sat my mind to it, which I’m probably not going to do so let’s not even get our hopes up. The newer Ox horror films have many of the elements of “good” 80’s American, and in particular the “exploring the wilderness and backwoods” type films that got really trite and became nothing but parodies of themselves in the end. The Aussie films also run with the old body count formula and handle it well enough, better than what is coming out of the so called independent straight to DVD horror movement in the US right now. The whole nature of the Aussie wilderness and outback help set the stage for the films. Desolate, hot, brutal and full of enough natural dangers that you hardly need a serial killer or flesh eating monster to increase the tension, but it doesn’t hurt to add that little extra bit of terror. And for the most part, not all the time of course because Australian cranks out it share of duds, the acting and direction in this films is above average for low to medium budgeted horror films. I would put the acting and direction up against most of the stuff coming out of the bigger studio horror releases in the states, like some of the newer films coming out of the once reliable Lionsgate Films. And so that brings us to this post’s feature, Primal. Now there is an America film that was also released in Australia under the title Primal. Do not get them confused. In fact I reviewed the film The Lost Tribe, also from 2010 to make matters more confusing, here at NC way back in the blog’s early days. It did not fare well as I recall. Why? Because it was a rancid turd of a film, that’s why. And while this Primal has its fair share of flaws I can give it a hearty recommendation so long as you are not expecting Macbeth or something.

A group of young friends pack up their SUV and head out into the Australian wilderness to get a look at, and in one case write a world changing thesis, on some 12,000 year cave paintings. The group is made of of the same damned characters you see in all these films, no matter what country the film is from. The macho alpha male, the horny, wise cracking but never gets laid male, the quiet brainy guy, the slutty dirty mouthed blonde, the nice girl and the smart gal with deep issues who wind up being the leader. Jeesh. Missing here would be the stoner and dumb jock and the black or Asian guy who dies first. But so what. In fact you just don’t like or connect with any of the characters in any real way, so you sit back and wait for them to start dropping like flies. You already know who is going to get it and who is going to make it to the end. You’re sure if this is going to be one of those “no one survives at the end” flicks, which is the only twist this genre can throw at us anymore. “Whoa! Didn’t see that coming! Everybody died. Now that’s some ending! Gotta give ‘em credit for trying something new there.” Ever get tired of hearing that? “Well, they tried something new!” Yea, and failed. Anyway, I will say this, other than a moment of really bad CG effects at the end, the ending here is pretty clever in terms of the film’s last line. Really worked. Nothing new, but it worked.

The group reach the secluded if not secret –like one of those lost valleys in a Tarzan movie- little forest and find the cave paintings we are introduced to at the film’s beginning. Now we know how some of those hand print paintings were really made. Idyllic at first, things start looking pretty bad when a girl is bitten by a saber toothed rabbit. Really. And too bad there weren’t more saber toothed rabbits, or man eating koalas or blood sucking wallaby’s. This is the only such beast we encounter other than tiny ravenous ants or something and leeches. And about those leeches. You just should not go swimming in waterholes in places where there are known flesh eating rabbits. But try telling that to blonde floozy Mel. After a boob flashing dip in said pond Mel develops a fever, loses all her teeth and has the dead saber toothed rabbit for breakfast the next morning. She turns on the group, of course, and the movie goes into survival mode fro here on out. I guess I will voice one of my few major objections –other than some really bad CG effects that should have been left out- about the film here. It is the sound the now transformed Mel makes when she screams. It is obviously some sort of computer enhanced sound and it reminded me of the screeches made by the vampires in 30 Days of Night, and I didn’t like those annoying sounds either. It is just so obvious the sound has been altered with some sort of software. And another issue is with the make up of the now mutated person. It consists only of some ill-fitting teeth prosthetics. Again reminding me of the vampires in 30 Days of Night. But they are so poorly made you can tell the person is wearing them even when they have their mouths closed, like those old glow in the dark vampire fangs you could get a Halloween time. The lips protrude out and you just know somebody id wearing fake teeth under there or they are sucking on an orange slice. But there is nothing else. And also, whenever Mel appears she is soaring through the air in some pose like she just bounced off a trampoline and her arrival is accompanied by loud music and that digitally enhanced screech. And you know what? It never scared me one.

 Things go from bad to worse when the muscle bound alpha male thesis writer gets infected and begins to transform. Group members get throats ripped out and fingers bitten off and eventually the action winds up in the cave they came in through with brainy gal Anja –whose character is written as having claustrophobia for some useless reason- facing the terror of the cave that is so bad Mel will not enter it. Winds up being some horny tentacles and monster that can be fought off with a machete.

Look, sounds like I am giving the film an unnecessarily hard time but it is a good watch and I am a cantankerous old horror movie fan now. Faded, jaded Mandarin. Some glitches here and there, but nothing unforgivable. Like so many movies of its ilk more could have been done but maybe the budget kept that from happening. Director and co-writer does well enough. The confrontation between jealous geek Chad and now primal alpha male Dace showed skill, although it kept ramping up with the heavy metal score music like a Slipknot video. The guy has some talent behind the camera but has little work to his credit, this being his only feature film. Again, the film harkens back to the backwoods films of the 80’s survival films from America, and there are even a few booby shots and loud sex scenes that I feel are more or a playful homage to those films than mere cheap exploitation. But it is a little of that too. While not a great movie it is pretty entertaining. I never felt bored watching it. No fast forwarding or unnecessary peanut butter sandwich breaks. Check it out. 

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