You would think a survivalist horror film about a group of campers fighting off monsters born from stagnant infected lake water would be material for a gripping and intense horror film. But you’d be wrong. In fact, most of “Primal” is quite tedious and rote. I wanted to be choked with tension throughout most of “Primal” and just found myself basically yawning and zoning out for the most part. I wish I could attribute it to being high, but I’m not one to get high. In either case, “Primal” is pretty derivative of Bava’s “Demons,” where anyone who ingests the tainted water find themselves transforming in to demonic beings in an instant.
They begin growling, they spit blood, their teeth fall out only to be replaced by jagged fangs, and the humanity is destroyed in favor of more monstrous facsimiles who only want to tear people to pieces. “Primal” then becomes a tedious routine of bickering, running and hiding, fighting off the monsters, and trying to figure out a course of action. Rinse, repeat, and hope for something new. The monster effects for the most part hearken back to “Demons,” but not a lot is accomplished with these villains. When a group of campers friend Mel is tainted and transformed, she becomes the automatic villain who stalks them in the jungles and seeks to rip them to pieces. Without any weapons or fire arms, they have to find ways to outwit and battle her, and hopefully find a way out of the jungle. For the most part, the chase and battle scenes are tense, especially when trying to dodge the demon’s vicious fangs, and her lightning fast reflexes and super strength.
But after the third leap from the trees to attack the hapless campers, you want so much more. You also want a reason for her insistent on stalking and attacking these individuals. Once writer Josh Reed gives us a motive for the monster stalking these individuals, it resorts to just pure B movie hokum and is pretty pointless. The gore and creature effects are pretty strong, and the monsters in human form are grotesque and occasionally startling, they just don’t seem to do much. There’s also never really an explanation for why the monsters have an aversion to fire, but not daylight. The characters are all basically moronic and lack and real brains of intellect to survive, and spend most of their time bickering about hiding and killing the beasts that lurk in the jungles.
One character is insistent that monstrous Mel can be saved because she’s just sick, in spite of the fact she’s spent most of her time ripping people’s throats out and consuming a man in front of them. Once the character roster boils down to one final girl, her battle for survival is pretty tame as she experiences a more sentient being within the dreaded caves lurking in the darkness. What purpose it serves is beyond me, but it is included to resolve an ultimately underwhelming horror film that doesn’t do much for the genre or the survival sub-genre. As a horror import, “Primal” is a forgettable and underwhelming survival horror picture that barely draws interesting characters, conflicts, or villains. It has potential to be a horrific and chaotic genre entry, but lacks any real originality or tension to keep our attention.