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Movie Review

"Inspired by a true story of the most terrifying serial killer in history—more than 300 victims and still counting!" Thus proclaimed cryptic ads for Primeval, a horror film marketed as the latest homicidal-wacko-with-a-rusty-farm-implement splatterfest in the ultraviolent Eli Roth or James Wan era ... even though it isn't one. I'm guessing the folks at Touchstone landed on that strategy because an edgy Texas Chainsaw Massacre mystique promised to draw a better opening weekend crowd than, "Hey, come see the killer crocodile!" Let's face it, Hollywood doesn't have a stellar track record when it comes to giant-croc flicks. Duds have ranged from Alligator to Lake Placid. Even Mr. Chainsaw himself, Tobe Hooper, flopped when he added 2000's straight-to-DVD stinker Crocodile to the subgenre.

Therefore, it's no wonder the producers wanted to distance themselves from that image. But Primeval is what it is. The featured 25-foot croc is known to South African villagers as Gustav. And when word of one its killings reaches an opportunistic Ted Turner type in the U.S., he dispatches hunky cable news journalist Tim Manfrey (Prison Break's Dominic Purcell) and his cameraman, Steven (Orlando Jones). Not only is the crew expected to get an exclusive, but their boss wants the beast brought back to the States unharmed. Didn't he see King Kong, Jaws, Anaconda or Creature From the Black Lagoon? Such missions never end well and, as you might expect, this one's no different. Along for the ride is an assortment of stock characters, including a cocky, high-tech croc hunter with his own TV show (thankfully, he resists the temptation to use the word "crikey"); a weathered German with an Ahab complex; a local boy who longs for the safety of America (first stop, Compton); and Aviva, a comely animal expert with no particular skill set other than looking good in a tank top.

The explorers don't realize it, but the scaly behemoth is the least of their worries. They're trespassing in a civil war zone. Both bloodthirsty Hutu rebels and Burundi militia shoot first and ask questions later, placing the team in a savage crossfire exacerbated by a warlord who has been executing people and dumping their bodies in large, unmarked graves. It's 94 minutes of bullets, blood, gnashing teeth ... and more blood.

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Positive Elements

Noble characters rush to one another's aid on numerous occasions, ignoring their own safety. That selflessness even pays dividends at times, as the rescued ones are around to return the favor. Aviva takes pity on a puppy left as an offering to Gustav. Steven stumbles upon an execution, which he captures on video, sparking a debate over whether the team should use the footage to expose African cruelty. They decide it's the right thing to do. That humanitarian attitude creeps into other scenes as well, as do brief speeches on the pointlessness of war and the fact that mankind's most nightmarish monsters are the ones we create ourselves.

Spiritual Content

Following the death of a young girl, the village shaman chants wildly in a ritual on behalf of the child's soul. When Steven hears a man quoting Latin, he quips, "What're you doing, praying to Satan?" Pressured to sing a tribal song, Aviva awkwardly launches into "Amazing Grace." The line "I once was lost, but now I'm found" and the concept of "salvation" are used metaphorically in a hip-hop song that plays over the end credits.

Sexual Content

Steven ponders whether his boss is sleeping with Aviva. He also makes crass jokes. Characters discuss a man's closet homosexuality. There's a condom metaphor, as well as a separate reference to the crocodile having an erection.

Of graver note, a soldier prepares to rape Aviva, ripping open her blouse and exposing her bra just before the monster enters the tent and tears him to pieces—a disturbing juxtaposition of sexuality and violence.

Violent Content

The aforementioned sexual assault is equally at home in this section, as is the croc's munching of the rapist. A character's head and torso show up among the bones and other remains piled in the beast's lair. Huge eruptions of blood in the river often symbolize croc attacks. A South African girl gets devoured in a swift attack. After getting shot, a man decides he's going to die anyway, so he puts himself on the menu in hopes of taking Gustav with him by way of a hand grenade. Others sure to turn up during a thorough flossing include a humanitarian worker, a pair of fishermen and the diabolical warlord himself. When the predator buries its snout into the back half of a Range Rover, Tim stabs at it in self-defense. The severed limbs of freshly eaten prey pop up.

The film opens with the discovery of rotting, wormy corpses in a mass grave. Those victims were reportedly shot at close range, a fate that befalls a handful of other people later in the film. One poor guy gets run down by a truck before a rebel climbs out and riddles his body with machine gun bullets. The warlord lops off a man's head with a machete. Warring Africans open fire on one another, with a handful of fatalities. Tim and a brutal rebel have a knock-down, drag-out fight before Aviva finds a gun and literally blows the guy's head off. Tim knifes one bad guy and gets shot by another. A young man is shot, and his assailant tries to finish him off by drowning him. There's a flip reference to O.J. Simpson killing "that white woman."

Crude or Profane Language

Nearly 20 f-words, more than a dozen s-words and an obscene gesture are joined by an assortment of low-grade swear words. Jesus' name is misused.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Apparently, beer is the beverage of choice while staking out a hungry reptile. A shaman smokes a ceremonial pipe, as does Steven. The warlord puffs a cigar.

Other Negative Elements

Tim deceives a man in order to gain his cooperation.

Conclusion

Primed for edited-down late-night reruns on the Sci-fi Channel, Primeval is a grim mess of a horror picture that resorts to cheap jump scares, dopey situations and what are, by today's standards, cheesy special effects. First-time feature director Michael Katleman cheats like mad, attempting to hide ridiculous action and mediocre CGI amid choppy editing and murky night scenes. It's just a bad movie all the way around. Meanwhile, any stab at a humanitarian political statement succumbs to lurid violence and gore.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

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