A group of people head out into the middle of nowhere to study an ancient rock painting and things end up going very badly for all involved when it turns out that the painting may well be a warning against something in the area that can change people and turn them into pointy-toothed savages (hence the title). That’s the basics of the plot.
Primal gets a lot right but also gets a few things wrong (not really surprising considering that it’s director Josh Reed’s first feature – though do check out the enjoyable short, Rattus Pistofficus, that he made - check it out here). It helps that it’s premise is a good one – like a mix of Cabin Fever, Demons and the “Darkness Falls” episode of The X-Files.
The acting from everyone involved is simply okay. Nobody stands out as excellent but nobody stinks up the place either, it’s only a pity that the actual onscreen characters weren’t actually deserving of much time. The group members seem to spend it’s whole time bickering with each other before making a number of inexcusably stupid decisions. Thankfully, Zoe Tuckwell-Smith does well enough as Anja that you want to root for her and Damien Freeleagus is likeable as the group joker, Warren. And Krew Boylan was cute, which also helped.
The script, written by director Reed from the story by himself and Nigel Christensen, is to blame for those character moments so I can’t really praise it that highly but it does a better job in the early scenes showing the individual members and how the group dynamic seems to be set up.
The second half of the film features a number of shots that suffer from poor lighting (yes, I know that we’re following action taking place in a wild wooded area but we should still be able to see what’s going on) and a rather confusing number of shots that don’t help us to keep track of which character is in peril from which other character.
And then there’s a final 10 minute sequence that may have many laughing at the ridiculousness of it all but that I just went along with. It helps that things lead to a fun punchline at the very end of the movie.
There are some enjoyable moments of madness here, and the special effects are pretty well done, and that’s what helps get Primal back to the stage of something a bit above average. It tries to be a little bit different but also falls into many of the traps that the genre has (a lack of logic, characters being far too stupid, etc). I still applaud it for trying something a bit new though.