Written, directed and produced by Josh Reed, Primal may seem like your typical violent monster / slasher flick, but in following formula the film did turn out to be rather enjoyable, if not cliché, but it worked. The opening scene some 12000 years ago gives us the premise where a caveman tries to communicate the presence of an unknown beast, only to be devoured very quickly before fast forwarding to today, with 6 travelling friends on a road trip to that exact same location for a camp and a hike.
The film takes the first 30 minutes to cue us in on the characters, given that with an ensemble, we expect certain molds to be adopted. For instance, there's always the ditzy, loud mouthed and slutty blonde (Krew Boylan) who's in the trip for some forest romp with studious looking boyfriend Chad (Lindsay Farris), who had enough when she starts to openly flirt with the alpha male of the group, Dace (Wil Traval), who's take away from the trip is the mysterious painting seen in the opening shot. Throw in the others like the group joker Warren (Damien Freeleagus), simple follower Kris (Rebekah Foord) and the one whom you know is more than meets the eye given the token phobia she must overcome at some point (Anja, played by Zoe Tuckwell-Smith), you have the requisite group for one heck of a monster attack.
I would liken the genre as an opportunity to study character dynamics and behaviours when placed under extremely stressful situations, such as the tendency for some to talk a lot without action, or to arrow others to perform various dirty-work What more, it gets interesting because the great unknown happens to be manifested into one of their own, so existential questions get called into the picture, especially when one gets transformed into a blood lusting beast with plenty of fang-like teeth replacing the human ones, extreme dexterity (an ability that varies its effectiveness from time to time) and a nasty violent temper, coupled with some nasty makeup to complete the revolting look set to strike fear.
There's the decision to play who lives and who dies, and as the audience you get roped in, based on past experience in similar genre films, to play guess who's next, as we listen in on all the bickering and disagreements, plus the warning signs that the characters themselves fail to heed. Of course these disagreements get chopped down to manageable size when the body count increases, and part of the guilty fun is to identify and apply genre cliches over the film and see if they still hold water. Most do.
For those into bloody gore, there are enough moments in Primal that are graphic enough to make you squirm, since the acts of violence are unflinching. The story gets built up quite nicely into the last hurrah, where unfortunately some really raw looking special effects set in a cave drew unnecessary attention to itself, and marred the experience of the crescendo carefully crafted.