Beware the Teeth of the Veldt!
She leaned in and whispered "Then why are we watching a Crocodile Movie?"
"I didn't KNOW it was a Crocodile Movie!", I responded.
Then I paused and leaned back in, saying "If I had known it was a Crocodile Movie, we'd have definitely seen it... on opening day!"
Yeah, it's safe to say I like being scared, and the advertisements for Primeval suggested a fulfillment of this promise (even if they didn't suggest a Crocodile). They also suggest that Primeval is "inspired by the true story of the most prolific serial killer in history".
Prolific? Maybe. Serial killer? Not definitively. True story?
Yeah, I know, I piss all over the legends of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Amityville Horror. Also, yeah, okay, I piss all over Primeval's plot depicting real events. However, The prodigiously large, scarred and legendary Killer Crocodile named Gustave really is alive and well in the African Nation of Burundi, swimming around in Lake Tanganyika! He's Twenty-five feet (six meters) long and weighs 2,000 pounds (907 kg). Sure, he's surrounded by urban (or vastly rural) legends and only one human kill has been verified to have been the work of his jaws! But hey, even if he isn't the most prolific serial killer on Earth, he's most certainly the biggest.
And that... is... scary.
Primeval... not so much.
It's not that bad, truly (though I imagine that those who bought tickets expecting a flick about a Central African version of ol' Zodiac might be a little pissed off when Captain Scaley shows up). However, one of the main problems with Primeval is the computer generated actor that plays its prime evil antagonist. Of course, animated Gustave's only real crime is that he looks just that: Animated. While the situations are scary as hell and luckily we never fall into the trap of re-treading Anaconda, Jaws or Lake Placid, it's hard to get much more scared of the star of Primeval than the star of Pete's Dragon!
I'm exaggerating, even I'll admit.
After an establishing opening scene which suggests the supernatural promise of the previews we flip over the ocean to the New York Headquarters of Media Giant "NNC" (that, I'm not joking about). There we meet Tim Manfrey (Dominic Purcell), a journalist on the edge of disgrace, and Orlando Jones, his ubiquitous wise-cracking side-kick camera man. Due, in part, to his recent journalistic dick-ups, Tim is assigned to cover animal reporter Aviva Masters (Brooke Langton) in her quest to Burundi to capture Gustave. Why? Fortune and glory, kid... fortune and glory. Or, as the script indicates, because he's finally killed a white woman.
Yeah, Primeval gets preachy from the moment they meet their Burundi-liaison Harry (Dumisani Mbebe). The points the script (by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris) attempts to make are well taken... if not always well made. After all, we're not talking about Hotel Rwanda here, this is an action/ horror flick from the writers of Terminator 3 and Catwoman. Soon, our trio of good-looking adventurers is joined by their own version of "The Crocodile Hunter" in the form of Gideon Emery's Mathew Collins, an extreme and edgy version of "Crocodile Dundee" in the form of Jürgen Prochnow's Jacob Krieg and a cool, yet tragic, teenager for us to sympathize with in the form of Gabriel Malema's Jojo.
If that's not enough, we're also told that Gustave is not the only predator in the swamps. Aside from him and both sides of the war zone, we're told that there is a powerful cross between a Gangster and a Warlord nicknamed "Little Gustave". I didn't make that one up either.
Between the Croc in the lake and the snake in the grass, the Americans and their friends are thrown about every which way but loose, with no Clint or Clyde to punch them out of this. Right around the time the Orca-esque revenge sub-plot pops up, it's clear that Primeval is a bit of a joke. Throw in the uncommon continuity errors (keep an eye on the placed product of Amstel Light) and shockingly bad character choices (the heroes hide from the Croc in a gazebo at the end of a Dock out in the water) and we're talking about a drinking game waiting to happen.
Except for the fact that this is a pretty damned entertaining motion picture. Director Michael Katleman has a good handle on suspense, even if he resorts to shocks and false starts to keep the audience uneasy. The banter is pretty funny at times, and occasionally the film does manage to be scary. Further, Katleman seems to be aware of the budget of this film and does his best to keep the monster out of sight for quite a lot of the time, using suggestions (or coverings) to portray his stalking.
At times, Gustave even manages to look pretty cool, though he never looks terribly real. He's also a brilliant stalker who has a good handle on architecture and Looney Tunes-like irony. I wondered if maybe in his secret lair he has a sign that reads "Gustave E. Crocodile: SUPER Genius", right above a big crate marked "ACME". But then, as the film morphs into a cat-and-mouse chase akin to the more serious parts of The Gods must be Crazy, Gustave even starts to feel like a guest star in his own flick. Oh, he comes roaring back all right... time and time again in a cyclical exchange of villain until the familiar, vaguely predictable end.
Ah, but it's all in good fun. It could have had a better budget and it could have had some more direct advertising ("I didn't KNOW it was a Crocodile Movie!"), but it's a neat little no-brainer. Hell, Gustave is even shown to keep trophies, which, I guess, makes him kind of a serial killer. I wonder if he'll start sending crudely typed letters to the San Francisco Chronicle. Okay, I'll stop. See, that's the coolness of Primeval. The execution is pretty neat, so it winds up being entertaining, but as I type this, I realize how ridiculous it feels on paper. Balancing it all out, I'm only going to let Gustave chomp on Two and One Half Stars out of Five. WHAT A CROC! It kind of reminds me of the time a friend of mine asked me for a pair of Alligator Shoes for Christmas. I couldn't refuse her, so I waded way out into the swamp and waited and waited and waited, and finally there came ol' Al E. Gator, just swingin' his tail like he owned the joint (which technically he did). So I jumped up and bopped him one on the noggin with my trusty Louisville Slugger and I flipped his scaly hide over and I frowned like you wouldn't believe. Man, do you know that there Alligator wasn't wearin' one damned shoe!
Look, don't blame me, it's your fault for reading this far down on the page. You know what to expect from me. See you in the next reel, bitey.
I'm from Louisiana where we EAT Alligators!
A Crocodile is no Alligator. Crocs scare the hell out of me!
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Click here... they don't bite... most of them.
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Don't Mess with the Croc!