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“Primevil”, not to be confused with a number of other recent similarly titled creature features, was originally released as “The Lost Tribe”, and was presumably renamed to suggest less anthropology and more horror. Though depressingly generic, the new title is actually kind of fitting, being the original working moniker for “Predator”, a film which director Roel Reiné quite openly attempts to ape, along with various others such as “The Descent”.
Reiné has a reasonable career in direct to DVD schlock, having helmed sequels “Scorpion King: Rise Of the Dead”, “Death Race 2” and “The Marine 2”, though this time at least has the backing of a high profile producer in Irvin Kershner (“Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back”). Boasting a slightly higher than average budget for this kind of affair, the film also features a decent cast including Brianna Brown (also in the underrated backwoods chiller “Timber Falls” and the excruciating “Night of the Living Dead 3D”), Emily Foxler (“Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past”) and Nick Mennell (who had the honour of appearing in both the “Friday The 13th” and “Halloween” remakes), with dear old Lance Henriksen turning up for a cameo appearance. The film is out shortly on region 2 DVD via Revolver Entertainment, coming with a grand total of zero extras.
The plot is predictably simplistic – a group of unlikeable characters on a yacht headed for the Philippines (to bring the wonders of broadband to the apparently backwards population, no less) come across a wounded man, who proceeds to shipwreck them on a seemingly deserted tropical island. On exploring, the gang find an abandoned village and archaeological dig site, though no sign of any people. Soon enough, they discover the reason for this – the island is also home to a tribe of missing link type humanoid super ape beasts, who proceed to hunt them down one by one.
To be fair, it’s also worth mentioning that “Primevil” does have a potential saving grace in an utterly bizarre subplot involving the church sending an assassin to the island to eliminate everyone, supposedly in the name of covering up the truth of evolution. Tragically, what could have lifted the film up to the dizzy heights of far out trash is thrown in and then swiftly discarded as a senseless afterthought, only serving to provide Henriksen with an insultingly brief appearance. The rest of the plot is entirely by the numbers, liberally lifting scenes and ideas from other films (including lots of pathetic “Predator” style pseudo-thermal POV shots and heavy breathing) and simply mashing them together without any real thought or cohesion. This isn’t helped by a dull set of non-characters, and though the film takes a third act stab at developing a strong female lead, this comes as too little, too late, and the script never engages or generates much interest or tension.
This is kind of a shame, as the film does have a few things going for it, chiefly that it looks much more professional and impressive than the average direct to DVD creature feature. The location shots are gorgeous, wild and picturesque, and Reiné does a fair job of milking them for the odd touch of atmosphere. Similarly, though the ape beasts themselves are frankly ludicrous, leaping around like rejected extras from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and boasting skull like faces for absolutely no discernable genetic reason, the effects are of a decent standard, with pleasingly scant use of CGI. The film also benefits from a respectable amount of action and gore, again mostly using old school makeup effects, and there are a number of gruesome moments scattered throughout. Though Reiné’s helming is largely unimaginative and lacks flair or intensity, he never noticeably drops the ball, and the film ticks along at a reasonable pace throughout.
Whilst it’s hard to imagine anyone getting even remotely excited by “Primevil”, it stands as a better example of the SyFy type genre. Without wishing to damn with faint praise, it’s certainly better than most of its threadbare, CGI heavy peers, and though it doesn’t really offer much, it should pass the time painlessly enough for diehard aficionados.
Roel Reiné (director) / Mark E. Davidson (screenplay)
CAST: Emily Foxler … Anna
Nick Mennell … Tom
Marc Bacher … Joe
Brianna Brown … Alexis
Hadley Fraser … Chris
Maxine Bahns … Maya
Ryan Alosio … Marcus
Lance Henriksen … Gallo