November 19, 2013
Kenneth L. Province Jr.
Matt O'Neill as Martin Blaine
Kristin Lorenz as Nicole
Jeff Ryan as Randy
Reggie Bannister as Dr. William Stein
It is said that everyone has a darkness within. That is particularly true for Martin Blane (Matt O-Neill), a horror movie FX guy from a small country town, except Martin’s darkness is wearing a cheesy gorilla suit.
Due to a propensity to start fights with directors of low-budget monster movies, Martin is convinced by his girlfriend Nichole (Kristin Lorenz) to seek anger management counseling. During the session Dr. Stein (Reggie Bannister, with a lovely bald head ponytail dyed bright auburn, by the way) performs hypnosis on Martin that awakens some kind of monster – the manifestation of Martins dark side in the form of a toothy ape-like monster.
Primitive is weird. Actually, there are several weird things about the film – weird casting, weird cinematography, weird ape costume and weird ponytail. Let’s take those one by one…
The casting doesn’t seem quite right, at least as far as the male lead is concerned. Matt O’Neill has done dozens of short films since 2006, and a few television episodes over the years as well. One of those TV series is called “Played by Fame, and he directed one episode and performed in five. Never heard of “Played by Fame”? Me neither. Anyway, the weird part is that he is supposed to be playing a tough guy from a small town, always getting in fights and in trouble with the law – a real bruiser. The trouble is, I wasn’t buying it. More likely is that O’Neill was in the drama club in Pasadena, and maybe band. I’m sure they get wild in band, but a different kind of wild than the “redneck wild” they’re passing him off as. Just wasn’t buying it.
The cinematography is weird too – not bad mind you, just odd. The lighting and photo quality are reminiscent of a Lifetime movie, or maybe an episode of “The Young and the Restless” more than a feature film. For those of you who have seen a SyFy Channel original feature or two, you know what I mean. It’s not necessarily cheap looking, and the lighting and composition of the shots is good – there’s just this quality to it that leads one to believe that Judith Light or someone is going to walk around the corner and have a nervous breakdown because her job as wife and mother is so taxing… complicated by the fact that she is obsessed with her son and kills his girlfriends. I think that’s an actual Lifetime movie. There’s one more thing weird about the cinematography, well, actually the cinematographer… the name is Adonis, Adonis Cruz. I’ve known lots of guys who think they are Adonis, especially in L.A., but never have I known anyone who actually IS Adonis.
The ape costume is straight out of the cheesy monster movies of old. There is actually a scene where the monster falls down a little bit and the zipper line is clearly visible across his butt and lower back as he’s getting up. Doing a monster like that is risky, and in all fairness it is extremely wonderful that the filmmakers used a guy in a suit instead of some CGI monstrosity, so we like the monster overall… he’s just weird. That’s not to say that CGI was foregone in the making of Primitive, oh no… but the computer effects were relegated to things like steam coming out of the water kettle and claw marks on the pantry door. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking that if you’re going to use a guy in a suit, then scratch the pantry door with nails or something and boil some water. Do it up!
Last but certainly not least, there is the ponytail. As God is my witness, if I get to the 60+ mark and have a bald head with a ring of hair around the base, and I decide to grow it long, dye it red, and wear a 24 inch ponytail, somebody kill me. How completely ridiculous is that? The director Benjamin Cooper should have made him cut it or hide it in a hat if he was so intent on casting Reggie Bannister in this role. It was very distracting and took away from the film with its weirdness. It’s one of those things that you will see on someone in public and lean in to your friends to say “hey, look at that! Tragic.” Seriously, I don’t understand why people do that. Please, if someone has some insight as to why I’m so wrong about this, please share. I like Reggie Bannister and I’m appreciative of some of the horror he’s played in over the years (Phantasm, Phantasm II, Wishmaster, Bubba Ho-Tep, etc.) but dude, lose the red ponytail.
With all of the weirdness, Primitive still has a few marginally entertaining moments. The BMW driver who has his face pulled off, that’s pretty good. That’s not enough, though, to justify expending any serious effort to procure this film. Maybe if nothing strikes your fancy on Redbox, Primitive is viable. There are definitely worse films in existence.