Teenagers? Check. A vast, labyrinthine forest? Check. A slutty girl and sensible girl? Check. And finally a great little title – Primal. Yup, we pretty much know what we are getting ourselves into here.
Primal, which first screened at London’s FrightFest’10, is billed as an Ozploitation. If you are not au fait with obscure horror sub-genres, this basically means its a low budget horror, comedy and action film made in Australia. These films blossomed after the introduction of the 18-year-old plus ‘R rating’ by the country’s board of film classification in 1971.
Yes, this horror is set in Australia and when we say Australia this means middle-of-nowhere, outback Australia, typical to this type of film. In keeping with the genre, the film starts with six youngsters driving around pretty much clueless as to where they are actually going. This sets up an ominous tone which, to be honest, doesn’t hang around too long.
Before we meet the kids, the film begins with a sequence set 12,000 years ago where a caveman attempts to draw some sort of warning message on the stone walls of his home. Unfortunately, whatever it is he is warning us against gets him, splattering his blood all over the rock face in the process. “Ohhh! What’s out there?” I hear you asking.
Skip to the present day, and it turns out the group of friends who appear to be driving around aimlessly are in fact looking for cave paintings. A vague storyline about one of them writing a dissertation on the markings is introduced, but it’s not important. This research is brought up a few times to remind us why these guys are stuck out here, but you probably won’t really care. After all, there’s more important things – gore – around the corner.
The group of friends are just what you would expect: three boys and three girls. There’s the guy there to do his dissertation, and the girl he’s sleeping with who doesn’t really say and do much. Then there is the over-sexed girl who has a slightly odd and highly jealous boyfriend. Dissertation guy also seems to be trying it on with her. Then there is the funny one who plays guitar and shares a tent with Anya. There’s something wrong with Anya, she suffers from claustrophobia and is generally in a foul mood. Apparently she is claustrophobic because when she was a kid she was trapped in a basement for a week, but we hear nothing of this again. OK.
The ominous atmosphere soon dies a gory death when we get thrown into the action. Fortunately for the audience the most annoying character, the over-sexed one, soon becomes infected with a primal force after she strips off to swim in a lake. The moral of the story? Don’t be slutty and annoying or you’ll be killed off first and turned into a bloody-thirsty crazy.
So, we learn pretty soon on that this is an infection horror, one of my personal favourite sub-sub-genres. They’re good because they usually involve one member of the group turning against the rest and trying to kill them. Great fun.
From there on in the film is a riot – there’s the classic ‘ what do we do now our mate is trying to kill us?’ dilemma, the quiet characters prove they are in fact plucky, the gore and action are piled on so quickly you don’t have time to get bored and it’s gruesome enough to watch without turning away. Yes, Primal is predictable but it’s also knowing. Slightly familiar expectations add to the excitement; yes we know what, but we don’t know when, do we?
Director Josh Reed handles this really well and manages to maintain a serious level of suspense. Reed also produced and co-wrote the script which uses well-timed wit and is surprisingly funny.
If you want to see a rabbit with fangs and people going primal then Primal is well worth it. The film is a fun fright-fest in the forest, which maybe a little dodgy in parts, but overall does Ozplotation proud.
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