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January 12, 2007 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | January 12, 2007 |

Author’s Note: I don’t really know how much the general public knows or is supposed to know about the plot of Primeval, so let’s just play it safe and say there’s a big spoiler herein concerning the identity of the “serial killer.”

Sigh. Well, how long has it been since we’ve had a killer crocodilian movie? Lake Placid? Does anyone out there still care enough to give this sub-sub-genre the time of day? What’s that? You say that Lake Placid made $56 million worldwide? Oh bother.

Well, regardless, this whole “based on a true story” trend really needs to end. The phrase is already a meaningless and obviously pitiful attempt to inject awful horror movies with some intrigue. The slogan may as well say “vaguely based on fact but heavily filtered through Stupid.” And the “fact” behind Primeval is a producer’s wet dream: Somewhere along the banks of the Ruzizi River in Burundi, there lurks a freshwater crocodile bigger than a Caprice Classic. Named “Gustave” by the locals, the croc is reputed to have killed and consumed hundreds of villagers, shrugged off bullets, and defied multiple attempts at capture.

Gustave was the subject of the PBS documentary “Capturing the Killer Croc” and is dealt with extensively in this National Geographic article, both of which are infinitely more interesting than this tepid creature feature.

But if you’re one of maybe nine people out there who might be amused by crocsploitation (?!), I’d suggest sticking with the aforementioned Lake Placid, that Lewis Teague movie or one of those D-level features the Sci-Fi Channel churns out every other week. Primeval has almost nothing that these films do not, save for a slightly larger budget and loftier aims — both of which cause the film to suffer.

Primeval doesn’t waste much time lining up the stock characters: Lunkhead hero (Dominic Purcell) is sent to Burundi with requisite pretty-pants (Brooke Langton) and dumbass comic relief (Orlando “Make 7-Up Yours” Jones) to record an attempt at Gustave’s capture. But the real danger this trio faces comes from the country’s ongoing civil war, a conflict linking back to the same Hutu-Tutsi violence that spawned the Rwandan genocide. The crocodile-capturing team runs afoul of a local warlord and violence ensues before Gustave even has a chance to get his chow on.

All this non-crocodilian conflict doesn’t leave much room for Gustave and his penchant for human consumption. And really, was there any other reason to see this movie? It’s almost as if director Michael Katleman was embarrassed that his first foray into film was basically a monster movie. Even though most of the cheap thriller tropes are present, Primeval is a bit bland and lacking in the gore and over-the-top shenanigans that would feel most appropriate. Even Anaconda was more amusing. I mean, honestly: Purcell’s character even attempts a ham-fisted statement about the human condition, cognizing that Burundi’s civil war and the resulting carrion were what gave rise to the monster crocodile’s fondness for man-meat. If that were true, wouldn’t there be a vulture out there the size of a Cessna? Christ, I hope nobody from Hollywood Pictures reads that. …

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.

Lake Flaccid

Primeval / Phillip Stephens

Film | January 12, 2007 |

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