One of the great horror film locations is an island or piece of land from which there is no escape and where the main characters have to battle against people, supernatural entities or animals that wish them harm. From B-movie fare like The Killer Shrews to genre favourites like Zombi 2 and Night of the Living Dead to a classic western like Rio Bravo (and John Carpenter's update Assault on Precinct 13), there is something about people stuck in a small environment under attack which seems to resonate with audiences.
Primevil begins on a tropical island with some anthropologists and other various scientists on an archaeological dig where they believe they have discovered the missing link. In a montage sequence, news of the find secretly travels around the world and eventually to Rome where the go-ahead is given for everything to be destroyed. Meanwhile, or perhaps sometime later, Joe, a music executive and his girlfriend, Maya, are on an extremely expensive yacht in tropical waters with guests and he agrees a lucrative contract, bought to him by a couple of ambitious young businessmen, to break into the Asian market. One of these 'Young Turks' who has secured the deal and has given his girlfriend, Anna, a scientist, a key to his house in order to make the relationship serious, but intends to propose to her later in the trip.
The next morning, someone is spotted drifting in the ocean, holding desperately to a piece of wood. Bringing him aboard, they struggle to get him to reveal any information about where he has come from and what has happened. When Anna has dressed his wounds and sedated him, the others secure him in a cabin and try and figure out what has transpired before settling for the evening.
With the ship's computer keeping them on course whilst everyone is asleep, the new arrival breaks out of his cabin, smashes the computer and sets the yacht on a collision course with land. Abruptly woken by the yacht running aground, everyone tries their level best to figure out exactly what happened and try and get the boat into deeper water. After admitting defeat, they head for land and come across the remains of the archaeological dig where no one can be seen, but a laptop remains with the chief scientist's journal in which she explains what they have discovered.
Predictably enough, members of the five-man group meet unfortunate ends and there is an occasional POV shot from something up in the trees who appears to see in monochrome with some form of thermal imaging and emit a noise that is definitely not human. After figuring out what the people on the island had discovered and the possible repercussions for creationists, they realise that a hit squad is on the island desperate to destroy all information so the missing link stays missing. Unfortunately for the people on the island, the remains that have been dug up may have been old, but the creatures, some of whose bones have been found, are still very much alive and don't take kindly to people invading their territory.
It isn't long before just one person, Anna, is left, and she must try and survive whilst under attack by these fearsome creatures, who will test her every step of the way while she tries to survive and get off the island.
Primevil follows many horror conventions from the island populated by killer animals to the group which is picked off one by one leading a sole female survivor (Carol Clover's famous 'final girl') who must overcome her fears and pacifist outlook and become increasingly aggressive in order to defeat the killer. There is also more than a little Predator thrown in with the creatures having thermal imaging eyesight and being able to move unseen throughout the jungle. In films like this, characterisation normally suffers at the expense of the action and Primevil doesn't buck the trend and it took quite a bit of attention on my part to figure out the characters' names and who they all were.
All that being said, this is a very watchable and entertaining horror film which, despite the rather hackneyed plot, is a well put together and interesting film that begs the question: if the 'missing link' was found, what would the Catholic Church do?
The anamorphic 1.78:1 picture is clear throughout with good colours and contrast levels so you have the bright blue sea and sky and vibrant greens of the jungle foliage. When it comes to the low light scenes in the jungle, detail levels are fairly high so you don't lose much definition and the action is clear and easy to see.
There aren't many scenes of violence necessitating CGI or SFX make-up, but the few instances when a gash or other wound is feasible are fairly convincing. As far as the creatures are concerned, they are very well brought to life, presumably using stunt performers in suits.
The set up menu gives you the choice of 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround, both Dolby Digital, and the 5.1 is a clear winner as there are numerous scenes in which the front and rear surrounds come into play, escalating the tension and horror.
The whole film is nicely scored with good sound effects and atmospherics so the scenes with the simians and other action sequences, such as when the yacht sinks, throwing everyone into the water, is well covered by the surround sound which envelops you in the action.
Primevil is certainly no classic and will not be studied in years to come as an intelligent and influential piece of filmmaking, but it really does what it sets out to do which is to pit some humans against their simian ancestors in a battle for survival on an uncharted island. It is a fairly unchallenging action film with some decent horror scenes and a fairly pervasive sense of unease and threat.
It is disappointing that, when it comes to extra features, the disc is completely barren, but the disc may still be worth a rental.