In some cases, oriignality is overrated.
Oh sure, you and your family deserve something NEW for your $50 when you head out to the multiplexes, and you have every right to be annoyed when a NEW film is nothing more than three older (and better) films wedged into one crappy rip-off -- but when you’re looking at horror films that are low-budget, imported, or otherwise “small,” then yes, sometimes originality is overrated.
Take, for example, the recent Australian import Primal; from stem to stern, from the opening of the flick to the closing credits ... there’s virtually nothing new on display here. As I sat down with Primal, my brain ran through a mental checklist: “Heh, that’s sort of like The Evil Dead ... oh, and this part here feel like The Ruins ... yep, there’s some Cabin Fever and a dash of ‘basic slasher’ and, ooh, even a little pinch of Lovecraftian weirdness!”
In some cases that could make for one boring horror flick, but in the case of Primal, it all comes together rather smoothly. The difference between “homage” and “rip-off” lies in both a film’s tone and its presentation, and while Primal is certainly beholden to several other horror films, it feels more like a “greatest hits” re-mix from a bunch of Australian horror fans / filmmakers than it does a blatant knock-off, retread, or copycat.
The flick opens with a strange but nifty sequence in which an ancient (yes, primal) evil infects early man ... and then goes dormant. We zoom forward to present day, and wouldn’t you know it? The forest is now being invaded by a group of young adults who are there to study the wilderness. The cute blonde chick hops into a nearby lake and promptly become infected by something ... evil. The sort of evil that turns a cute blonde chick into a fanged demon who wants to eat people and then toss their remains into a dark nook in the forest that (creepily) dissolves said remains.
And then the demonic blonde heads back to the campsite to infect someone else.
As mentioned, the individual components of Primal are borrowed from inspirations both obvious and clever, but (against all odds) the movie manages to stand (quite crazily) on its own two feet. The demonic possession angle threatens to become a bit silly here and there, but director Josh Reed has a solid cast and enough sense to keep the mayhem flowing with enthusiastic frequency.
Basically, Primal is the sort of “not very original but well-made and certainly entertaining” little horror flick that will act as a ‘calling card’ for Josh Reed and his crew -- and I bet if it finds an audience they’ll be given a chance to make something a bit more novel. Until that one, Primal is good gory fun.
Primal is also available on-demand through your local cable subscribers as part of IFC Midnight release