Let’s address something right off the top: the makers and marketers of Primeval have executed the most flagrant case of false advertising since The Neverending Story. The trailers and TV ads say that the movie is about “the most prolific serial killer in history,” which conjures an image of someone who had to have been worse than Jack, Dahmer, Starkweather, Rodriguez, Sam, Gein, Manson, Gacy and Bundy combined. So who is this sociopath with the mother of all blood lusts? Why it’s Gustave, a resident of Lake Tanganyika, Burundi in Africa, rumoured to be a six metre (20 feet) long crocodile.
Okay, so I feel ripped off, which is why I just spoiled that for you but you find out pretty much right away that this isn’t going to be about a human killer. It’s pretty obvious when we see a UN doctor getting pulled into a lake screaming and her hollowed out torso surfacing minutes later that we aren’t dealing with a human monster. Then you cut to a New York news network office where producer Tim (Dominic Purcell) is seemingly punished for a “Rathergate”-like expose of a senator by being sent to Africa to document a trapper’s attempt to catch Gustave.
At which point the jig is up. We know there’s no serial killer and it’s a crocodile, and we know that despite good intentions and modern technology, the expedition of Tom’s team including animal reporter Aviva (Brooke Langton), cameraman Steve (Orlando Jones), croc expert Matthew (Gideon Emery) and great-white hunter Jacob (Jurgen Prochnow) will not go according to specs. And if it’s not bad enough to be in Middle-of-Nowhere, Africa, searching for a man-eating croc, then evading the local warlord affectionately named “Lil’ Gustave” will surely decrease your chances of survival.
But I still can’t get over that tricky stuff. Was the studio afraid that they wouldn’t be able to get the kids out to a giant killer crocodile movie any other way? Wouldn’t surprise me actually and given the material, they had every right to be worried about this stinker. But seriously, saying that Primeval is about a serial killer is like saying that King Kong is about bestiality or that Die Hard is about a real-life look at policing. When a movie tries to trick you into thinking that it’s going to be good, even though its really bad, is one thing—it’s just good salesmanship—but this is an out-and-out lie.
Even excluding all that, Primeval is still pitiful. Purcell, Jones and Langton have about as much appeal together as they do apart, which is to say hardly any at all. The crocodile looks obviously fake save for a few money shots in the final reel. The movie comes with an embedded scorecard that says who will live and who will die and the political turmoil in Africa is dwindled down into an easy “nothing a croc can’t swallow” philosophy.
No subtlety, no subtext, no problem is the way director Michael Katleman gets down, and he’s directed so many episodes of Tru Calling I guess they just assumed he could make something out of nothing. The script comes from the writers of Catwoman, The Net and Terminator III, which makes me curious as to what somebody thought when this first crossed their desks that made them say, “we have to make this.” I would also like to know how exactly this didn’t end up being a direct-to-DVD flick or TBS original movie; I guess it’s a testament to the incredible pull of Brooke Langton and the Melrose Place lobby.
Save your pennies boys and girls, save them for renting something worthwhile if you have a taste for horror. Africa has real enough problems that demand our attention, without a film that promotes the little-known dangers of legendary giant crocodiles. For that matter, go watch Blood Diamond instead.