Primeval Blu-ray Review
PictureSporting a 1080p image that comes in at a lustrous 2.35:1, Primeval strikes a slightly unusual palette. While it is certainly very colourful, the picture is a little over-saturated and some sequences feature a heightened contrast level which may, or may not, be intentionally designed to enhance the stifling heat and sunny glare of the setting. Exterior shots, which form the overwhelming majority of the film can either be terrifically detailed - wide landscape or river-scape compositions especially stand proud from the screen - or irritatingly hazy - which is virtually any time there is a human in the frame - and it is this softness in the midst of an otherwise sharp transfer that knocks the overall image quality down a peg or two.
Detail on the unearthed bodies from a mass grave near the start is very good indeed, and quite grisly. The foliage and the locations all look splendid, too, although the picture, curiously, doesn't seem to invite the eyes in as much as many other high-resolution transfers out there. The croc, thankfully, looks great, with his beady eyes and armour-plated hide appearing richly textured and detailed. Three-dimensionality is certainly present, although there is nothing particularly striking about the image with regards to objects leaping from the screen with that hi-def pop. Most well-lit scenes do, however, perform a fine job of enhancing the depth of field.
Blacks are variable, too. Sometimes they can appear quite deep and strong and deliver a fair amount of atmospheric shadow-play, usually when the cast are scampering around their camp or huddling together to await the next fang-filled attack. But, at other times, they are hopelessly washed out and seeping all-too easily into grey. In fact, a number of night-time sequences suffer from a badly filtered effect that renders the contrast ill-defined and unsatisfying. There is also some slight evidence of noise in the image but, on the whole, the transfer is free from compression artefacts.
SoundPrimeval's PCM Uncompressed 5.1 (48 kHz/24-bit) track should not disappoint. The film enjoys a wide soundfield and copious surround action that, although not as aggressive or as clear as some other recent releases on the format, is still very active, exciting and immersive. This is a movie that thrives on gunfire, violent upheaval of land, water, vehicles and people, and lots of crocodile roaring ... and it does a fine job of rendering each with vigour.
The rears carry lots of eerie African savannah ambience, such as wind, rainfall, thunder, swaying grass and splintering wood to good effect, but there are also some smart moments when the giant croc is scuttling about in the bushes or the murk that emanate from over your shoulder with clarity and realism. Some sweeps around the set-up are brought into play with various jeeps careering through the bush and helicopters whooshing around the sky. Gunfire is nicely directed too, but I was a little disappointed that the sound effects for the bullets thumping underwater were not a bit clearer or more dynamic. Steerage, on the whole, is pretty well thought-out and there are numerous instances when effects or voices are spread out around the set-up. Check out the whiz-bang fly-bys and subsequent explosions of the RPG that one rebel soldier is addicted to using.
Dialogue and score come over well, without any mush or swamping under the more dramatic effects. The score, itself, features a fair few ethic songs that are given a degree of prominence on the track, though never to the detriment of anything else in the mix. In fact, there are a couple of times when African voices seem to chant or whisper from unexpected speakers, which gains the track a nice natural feel. Bass levels are not excessive, but the sub is frequently used and adds a decent oomph to the plentiful impacts of crashing croc chaos and bad-boy bombastics. Overall, another great PCM track that definitely has more reach, clarity and power than the DD 5.1 mix that is also offered.
ExtrasThe commentary with director Michael Katleman and visual effects supervisor Paul Linden is fairly interesting, although they seem to put too much stock in the legend of Gustav and are unwisely committed to the conjunction of the two rival plots. However, it is quite enthusiastic and anecdotal.
There is also a brief making-of called Croc-umentary: Bringing Gustav To Life, which runs for about nine minutes. As the title implies, this concentrates on the CG work that created the monster reptile. It is quick, enthusiastic and pure EPK, but, in the scheme of things, not too bad for a little once-over. There is certainly nothing new to learn about the techniques involved as, by now, we must all be competent backseat computer animators due to the sheer wealth of this type of expose available on disc.
Then we get a selection of three Deleted Scenes that come with an optional commentary from Michael Katleman. One is a superfluous shower sequence featuring Aviva Masters which just serves as play-in to a later scene that we see in the finished film, and before you think that there may some worth in this snippet, I'm sorry to say that it is considerably un-exploitative. Another has an extended scene of a horde of real crocs devouring a prop dummy that had been filled with pig offal - though, disappointingly, this is nowhere near as gory as you might have expected. And the last one is an alternate and extended death sequence for one important character, which contains a mixture of raw and completed CG elements. As the director states, the version that ends up in the final movie is better. In fact, you could say that it is snappier. Oh dear.
Finally, besides a stack of trailers for new and forthcoming BD releases, there is a Movie Showcase feature to take you directly to those bits that the studio reckon are the disc's best AV moments.
VerdictPrimeval is no classic, that's for sure. But it does have a direct and in-yer-face attitude that makes it quite a ferocious contender in the C-grade thriller category. Katelman makes a rod for his own back with combining two distinct plots and genres, though. The film is marketed as a horror in the Lake Placid mould, yet devotes much more time and immediacy to the equally nasty human threat on dry land. The underrated Val Kilmer/Michael Douglas actioner The Ghost And The Darkness did this sort of thing much, much better, but having said that, Primeval possesses a raw intensity that can, in the right frame of mind, be quite entertaining. I've certainly seen worse creature-features than this, let's put it that way.
On BD, the film has a few niggling issues, but for the undiscerning - and let's face it, you would have to be to buy this in the first place - there is little that couldn't be overlooked. Extras are of a one-only affair, but wouldn't take up much of your time, anyway. So, if unexpectedly violent Croc-shock capers are your thing, then Primeval is probably worth sinking your teeth into. Overall, this rates a 6 out of 10, but the more easily-pleased can add a point on top of that!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.77
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