They say you should save the best for last, but for my Fantasia 2023 coverage, I decided to throw that maxim out the window. The Primevals was my most anticipated film of the festival, so I just couldn’t wait to check it out. And I mean that literally. It was the first Fantasia screener I watched, and it kicked off my festival experience with an absolute bang.
The Primevals was directed by David Allen, and it stars Juliet Mills, Leon Russom, Robert Cornthwaite, Walker Brandt, Richard Joseph Paul, and Tai Thai. The film begins in a tiny village in Nepal, and we quickly find out that the people there are under attack by a Yeti. Eventually, they manage to kill the creature, and its body ends up at a Western university, where some scientists get the chance to study its remains.
Their examination turns up some strange and unexpected results, like evidence of brain surgery, so one of them decides to travel back to Nepal to capture a live specimen. She puts together a team that includes a former student of hers and a big-game hunter, and they travel to the Himalayas to find the legendary creature. At first, everything seems to go according to plan, but they soon find a whole new world that nobody ever knew existed, and they learn that the Yeti isn’t the only thing they have to fear.
Admittedly, that plot synopsis may sound a bit vague, but trust me, you’re going to want to go into The Primevals as blind as possible. In fact, you might even want to skip the trailer, as it’s a bit more spoilery than I would’ve liked (but if you’ve already seen it, don’t worry; it by no means ruins the movie!).
See, there’s actually a whole lot more to this film than you might expect. I thought it was going to be a typical B-movie adventure where the characters explore a new land, encounter a few dangerous monsters, and then face off against the creature they were searching for in the first place, but that’s actually not what happens.
I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m going to be really vague here. Suffice it to say, the story in The Primevals is more than just a convenient excuse to show off a bunch of cool monsters. In fact, I’d even say it’s one of the highlights of the movie. It has a nice little mystery that kept my eyes absolutely glued to the screen, and when the film finally pulls back the curtain and shows you what’s actually going on, the payoff does not disappoint.
That being said, I don’t want you to get your hopes up too much. The Primevals is still very much a B-movie, so don’t go into it hoping for Oscar-worthy storytelling. In particular, the first half is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a film like this. The dialogue and the acting are passable at best, and the plot is pretty standard for this subgenre. This part of the movie gets by almost entirely on its opening monster scene and the promise of more creature action later on, so as a whole, The Primevals pretty much stands or falls entirely on the strength of its second half.
And thankfully, the second half absolutely knocks it out of the park. Seeing the characters explore the Yeti’s homeland and slowly learn more about it is pretty fascinating, and like I said, the plot actually gets really good. What’s more, the characters also become a lot more likable in this part of the film, and that gives the story some much-welcome emotional depth. Granted, they themselves don’t change much, but the situation they find themselves in just imbues them with a really fun sort of B-movie charm that I thought was missing in the first half.
Last but not least, I want to talk a bit about the monsters in The Primevals. They’re brought to life by stop-motion animation, so if you’re used to high-budget studio films that use state-of-the-art CGI to animate their monsters, you might not be too impressed with these creatures. But if you’re a fan of stop-motion animation, I think you’re going to love them.
I grew up watching movies like King Kong, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and just about everything Ray Harryhausen ever made, so I absolutely adore this style of filmmaking. It holds a really special place in my heart, and I’m happy to say that The Primevals totally nails it. The monsters look amazing, and they gave me a super fun shot of nostalgia.
All that being said, I can’t quite say that I loved everything about this movie. In particular, I didn’t really like the sendoff the Yeti got, and it actually left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth once the credits began to roll. I obviously can’t go into any more detail without spoiling the ending, but if you watch the film, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
However, in the grand scheme of things, that’s a pretty minor issue, so it by no means ruins The Primevals. In fact, it’s pretty much just one step above a nitpick, so on the whole, I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. It has likable characters, fun monsters brought to life by great stop-motion animation, and a surprisingly compelling story, so it’s everything I could want from a film like this.
The Primevals had its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 23, and it’ll be getting a second showing at the festival on July 24. After that, it’s set to get a general release sometime later this year by Full Moon Features.