Review: PRIMAL RAGE Springs Familiar Predator Anew
A supremely watchable Bigfoot flick that pendulums from genuinely terrifying to downright hilarious.
Like you, the Oh-Mah -- or, as it’s more commonly known, Bigfoot -- tries to keep itself busy.
On a sprightly sunny day, it likes to creep laterally from behind pine trees, growl beastly from afar at its prey, and roar triumphantly as it relishes in the many cunning ways it decapitates its victims. Like its cousin, the Oh-Mah also tends to be smitten by unsuspecting blondes; you know, the Jane to its King Kong. Whether the Oh-Mah is some kind of a gentleman is a dead giveaway, though, seeing that it has peeled its scrawny victim of his flesh, a token of courtship, perhaps, to his Jane it has marked, who encounters the body when she runs over him with her jeep. Not exactly a meet-cute, I know.
Thus kicks off Patrick Magee’s Primal Rage, a crossbreed between 1987’s Predator and 2006’s Abomination, with an inverted point-of-view. The Oh-Mah, though a legitimate creature borne out of Native American myth, is depicted here with the wits of cinema’s most heinous bogeymen and the cartoonish compulsion of a ten-foot primeape that happens to be a pervert.
In the film, the Oh-Mah wields an arsenal of carefully selected weapons and tools, and it knows how to efficiently use them. More importantly, it knows that should the opportunity arise where you can use a shiv, you ought to use it right and slice throats ninja-style. You know, just for theatrics. The result is a supremely watchable Bigfoot flick that pendulums from genuinely terrifying to downright hilarious.
Of course, that’s no hall pass for the faults fissuring the screenplay, co-written by Magee and Jay Lee. The internal conflict is inherently more involving, as it lodges on a young couple’s relationship in the very throes of falling apart. The film casts newcomers, Casey Gagliardi and Andrew Joseph Montgomery -- interestingly, a real-life couple -- who bring a sense of veracity to their otherwise lean dynamic, which is that of the husband regaining his wife’s trust after what appears to be a reckless incident that leads the husband imprisoned.
Elsewhere, the sheriff’s office reluctantly seeks the guidance of native Hupas. Tailing no lead as promising as a trail of breadcrumbs, the authorities in the film’s sleepy town seem a-o.k. at arbitrarily taking a joint-puffing, clearly deranged townie for his word. “Giant hairy mohawk motherf*cker,” he warns them at one point. “He’s gonna getcha.”
So, off the sheriff (Eloy Casados) and his deputy (Justin Rain) trods to the town’s Native American community, who aids them in vanquishing the beast that’s currently plucking out dumb-as-boots hickeys, led by Marshal Hillton’s B.D., like a berserkly invigorated Jason Voorhees that stands-in a plate of bark for a hockey mask.
This is doubtless a promising set-up, but one that the film ultimately fails to follow through. But where Primal Rage lacks in realizing its story, it makes up for the fun it has with its rare monstrosity. The Oh-Mah, as giddily depicted in this film, has the bloodlust of the Frankensteinian species that Arnold Schwarzenegger faces in Predator and the cunning of the monsters in the Alien franchise. And o.k., maybe it also shares the doofus-like quality of Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice. But all these thrown into the mix are chiefly what makes the film’s monster so uniquely entertaining.
Magee’s prolific work as a visual effects supervisor carries over here, with mutilation, evisceration, and impalements striking left and right. The film doesn’t turn away from blood and viscera and other grotesquerie; in a key, heartbreaking scene where one of the principal characters gets defiled, the character gazes at the bed of corpses surrounding her, projecting a sense that had she had the chance to switch places with a dead body, she’d have it without question.
But beyond gore and dread, Magee also has a legitimate skill at filming physical scenes. Towards the film’s denouement, Montgomery, who faces with the Oh-Mah mano-a-mano, is covered in mud, springing and tumbling over and around the gargantuan beast, bringing a physicality to the film like professional dancers do. For what it’s worth, though he’s got plenty to work on in terms of story, Magee indeed knows how to use his team’s talents, making him no less cunning than the monster he’d breathe to life in his film.
The film will screen in theaters for one night only on Tuesday, February 27. Visit the official site for more information.