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The Primevals (2023) Review

The Primevals was a film I thought I’d never get to see. Tracing its roots back to a short filmed in the 1960s, Raiders of the Stone Ring, and through the late 70s and early 80s it constantly seemed to be in some form of preproduction, either by the project’s driving force, stop-motion artist David Allen, or via one of producer Charles Band’s companies. It got frequent mentions in Famous Monsters of Filmland and even a cover story in Cinefantastique. But apart from some footage shot around 1978, nothing came of it until 1994 when the film’s live action footage was shot in Band’s Romanian studios and the Dolomite Mountains in Italy.

Then, as he was working on the film’s extensive stop-motion effects, Allen died of cancer, shutting the project down again. Finally, in 2018 Band and Chris Endicott crowdfunded the money to finish the effects and, in 2023 the finished film premiered at Fantasia and now is finally in general release.

The film opens in the Himalayas with several Sherpas trying to capture a Yeti that looks more the Son of Kong than the creature we usually associate with the term. An avalanche kills the creature and its body makes its way to the Professor Claire Collier (Juliet Mills, Beyond the Door, Nanny and the Professor).

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She was one of the panel who rejected a thesis on the creature written by Matthew Connor (Richard Joseph Paul, Knight Rider 2010, Loserville) whom she now wants to accompany her on an expedition to Nepal. Once there, they recruit a local adventurer, Rondo Montana (Leon Russom, Alien Nation: Body and Soul, A Quiet Place) before joining up with one of the professor’s students, Kathleen (Walker Brandt, Dante’s Peak, Lunarcop) and Siker (Tai Thai, Killing Zoe, Universal Soldier), one of the Sherpas who helped acquire the Yeti.

When you watch The Primevals the thing to keep in mind is that it was filmed thirty years ago, and the script by Allen and Randall William Cook (Demon in the Bottle) dates back even further than that. Along with the plot, which is very much in the style of old school adventure novels like The Land That Time Forgot and The Lost World, it can feel somewhat dated at times.

Also, white it may be the most expensive film Charles Band was involved with, it’s still a relatively low budget film and most of that went on the effects we see in the final act. So don’t expect too much between the opening battle with the Yeti and the hour mark. While I’m familiar enough with Band’s films from the 90s that I somewhat expected this, I was disappointed that their raft didn’t get attacked by some aquatic creature like the plesiosaur Allen animated for The Crater Lake Monster.

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Once we do get to the final act and the evil reptilian aliens, I wonder if they’re related to David Icke’s Lizard People, show up I certainly got what I was watching The Primevals for as large crowd of scaly spectators watches as the Yeti is used against its will in what looks like their equivalent of the Coliseum. It all ends with chaos and a surprisingly convincing looking dam break.

I know stop-motion effects aren’t to everyone’s taste, but if you like them, then you’ll want to see The Primevals. David Allen may have been best known for his Oscar nominated work on Young Sherlock Holmes, as well as high profile films such as Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Ghostbusters II, but genre fans know him for the many low budget classics he worked on. They ranged from Equinox, Laserblast and Flesh Gordon in the 70s through The Howling, Q: The Winged Serpent, and several of the Puppet Master franchise in the 80s and 90s.

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With The Primevals, he got to make the movie he would have loved to have seen as a kid, and if this had been popping up on weekend Creature Features back when I was growing up, I would have been glued to the TV. Seeing it now, it’s still fun and holds up well, although kids of today may be too spoiled by current state-of-the-art effects to fully enjoy it.

For me though it was a wonderful bit of nostalgia, capped off with a great score by Richard Band (Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, Re-Animator) and the cinematography of Adolfo Bartoli whose credits ranged from Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts to Warbirds. It was a long wait, but it was worth it.

Full Moon Features has released The Primevals to Digital Platforms.

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