By Shawn McKenzie 01/14/2007
A 25-foot crocodile that the locals call Gustave eats a UN humanitarian worker named Dr. Cathy Andrews (Erika Wessels) along the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Burundi, Africa. Back in America, Tim Manfrey (Dominic Purcell), a producer for Network News Channel (NNC), falsely reported on a baseless scandal involving a senator named Porter (Andrew Whaley), and his boss, Roger Sharpe (Patrick Lyster), chews him out for it. To make up for the mistake, Roger orders Tim to take cameraman Steven Johnson (Orlando Jones) and puff piece animal reporter Aviva Masters (Brooke Langton) to Burundi to report on Gustave. When they get there, they are accompanied by the Steve Irwin-like Australian herpetologist Matthew Collins (Gideon Emery) and grizzled veteran hunter and poacher Jacob Krieg (Jürgen Prochnow) on the hunt for the monster. While Tim and crew are just there to report on Gustave, Matthew and Jacob have different reasons for hunting it. Matthew wants to capture it using a large steel cage so that he can study it, while Jacob wants to kill it as a form of revenge for it eating his late wife Ona (Sonia Mbele.) What Tim and his crew don’t know is that Burundi is in the middle of a civil war between the Hutu and the Tutsis, despite being assured that there is a ceasefire currently in place. They meet a local official named Harry (Dumisani Mbebe) who helps them gather up some local laborers to carry the steel cage. One laborer named Jojo (Gabriel Malema) pesters them about the possibility of being taken back to America. One day, while taking some establishing shots, Steven witnesses and films the slaughter of a Shamen (Ernest Ndhlovu), his wife (Thandi Nugbani), and his son (Kgmotoso Motlosi), by a local warlord (the Shamen had previously helped them locate Gustave by blowing smoke in the faces of Tim’s crew and chanted some African stuff.) Aviva wants to expose these crimes to the world using this footage, but they must first survive the attacks of a huge, fake-looking CGI crocodile.
In the last year or so, the studios have tried hard to guard critics from seeing their movies (or more specifically, their horror movies) because they knew that we would trash them. This is the first time that I’ve heard of a studio actually tricking audiences into seeing a movie by deceiving them with their advertising. Primeval is the movie that they don’t want you to see until you get to the theater. After you leave, you may find yourself angry for having gone in the first place.
Honestly…when you watched the trailers advertising that it was “inspired by the true story of the most prolific serial killer in history”…did you think that this “serial killer” was going to be a big crocodile? Knowing that it was a croc before I saw the movie (I always do pre-research beforehand), I actually asked the eight or so people in the audience if they knew it as well. They all said that they thought they were in for a tale of an inhuman African serial killer, and that the “Prison Break” dude and the “MADtv” dude were chasing him. A couple of them grumbled that they felt cheated.
Even if the studio in question (Hollywood Pictures) had owned up to it being a killer croc pic, it would still anger some moviegoers. The reason why is that it looked like one of those cheap, cheesy “original movies” that they show on Saturday nights on the Sci-Fi Channel. Apparently, the movie was scheduled to have an April release date originally. Last year, Hostel and Underworld: Evolution were both big January horror hits, and Hollywood wanted to cash in on the January horror ride, so they moved the release date up. Unfortunately, they forgot to make a good movie in which to entice those horror audiences. There is a theory I heard that…if they had those extra four months in which to work on the special effects…it might have been a decent movie. I have a feeling that it would still be horrible to watch.
Another problem with the movie is that they couldn’t seem to figure out what type of movie they wanted to make. Did they want to rip off 1980’s Alligator, 1999’s Lake Placid (which actually wasn’t a bad movie)…or last year’s Blood Diamond? The Burundi civil war setting was calling for some political commentary, but when the crocodile chomps both the heroes and the villains up, the politics became moot. Why bother put it in at all if it didn’t matter to any of the survivors?
It’s such a shame that they had to waste some good actors here. I have enjoyed Purcell on FOX’s “Prison Break” and I liked him on his previous FOX show “John Doe.” I even thought that he made a good bad guy in 2004’s Blade: Trinity. Jones can be funny, but aside from a couple of okay lines, his job as the stereotypical comical black sidekick didn’t come off well.
In the spirit of the clichéd plotline of the movie…Primeval is a croc. You may be surprised that this movie was directed by Michael Katleman…a veteran TV director of several great shows like FOX’s “Dark Angel,” “Tru Calling,” and “Reunion,” several episodes of both “The Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville” (when they were still on the WB), and more. This is his first theatrical movie, and he messed up big time. Of course, it doesn’t help that John Brancato and Michael Ferris wrote the script. They were the men responsible for co-writing one of the worst movies of 2004…Razzie Worst Picture winner Catwoman. So, be forewarned…this is not a serial killer movie…nor is it a good movie period.
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