WIN ‘Primeval’ on DVD, Read Chat With Director/Review

Buena Vista Home Entertainment released their giant-croc movie Primeval (review) on DVD this past Tuesday and to help promote the release not only do we have three copies of the DVD for you guys to win, but we’ve posted a review of the release, along with a chat with director Michael Katleman inside. Read on for the review and interview or to enter to win one of the three DVDs put PRIMEVAL in the subject line and E-mail me your full name and address. Read on for the review and interview.

PRIMEVAL: DVD Review and chat w/director Michael Katleman
By: BC

Last week, Bloody-Disgusting took part in the world’s first “virtual junket”. Basically, we logged into a website that had last winter’s killer croc movie Primeval playing in a Youtube style streaming video window, with a chat room running next to it. As the movie played, we were able to ask director Michael Katleman questions about the film.

It was a good idea in theory, but it had its share of problems. Primarily, Primeval is not a film to watch on a small blurry window (and cropped to boot) with stereo sound. A big monster movie deserves the best presentation possible. Which makes it even stranger that the film was marketed as yet another serial killer movie, as people would much rather see a giant monster running around eating folks on the big screen than at home. Having learned their mistakes, Hollywood Pictures is putting the croc front and center for the DVD release.

After the junket, I re-watched the film properly on DVD, and came away with a better opinion of it. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s enjoyable enough. It should be noted though, that after the quick prologue, there is little croc action during the first hour. Instead we focus primarily on a news team (Dominic Purcell, Orlando Bloom, and the incredibly cute Brooke Langton) as they travel to the African Jungle to investigate a series of alleged crocodile attacks. Once there, they discover the reasons behind the attacks, as well as more information about the croc, nicknamed Gustave, courtesy of Jurgen Prochnow and Gideon Emery as their jungle guides. Surprisingly, most of the danger to our characters comes from a group of mercenaries, leaving Gustave more or less on the sidelines until the last 20 minutes or so.

The all CG croc looks good at night, however the daytime scenes it looks a bit fake. Either way, the scenes of it rampaging after a human or two provide more than enough thrills to make up for the slower parts of the film. As it is based on true events, there is little humor in the proceedings (what there is consists entirely of Orlando Jones’ adlibbing), as Katleman and writers John Broncato and Michael Ferris instead more or less stick to the facts in lieu of a Lake Placid or Tremors style “Hey this is all kind of fun!” attitude. However, without spoiling much, this results in a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion, and given Katleman’s insistence that Primeval is intended to be a `fun’ movie, one must wonder why they chose to stick to the facts when it came time to write an ending.

The DVD includes some of the usual extras, like a commentary track (which is pretty interesting, as they point out numerous things that were cut for budgetary reasons) with Katleman and FX Supervisor Paul Linden, a few deleted scenes (nothing you’ll miss) and a making of piece that focuses mainly on the creation of the croc. I would have liked to have seen a piece on the real case, but alas. Most people will want to watch the film to see some croc action, and on that level, Primeval delivers.

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Below are some highlights from the live chat with Katleman, which again ran throughout the entire running time of the film (94 minutes).

Primeval is now on DVD and Blu-Ray DVD from Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment.

Note – Some of the discussion may be considered spoiler material.

Q: Since this was based on a true story, what kind of research did you do to help make the film?

A: First, I watched the National Geographic documentary. And, thank god for the internet, because there’s a wealth of information out there.

Q: Typically, movies about real-life killers are made after the killer has been caught or passed away. Did you have any qualms about making a movie about a killer that is still at large?

A: No. It actually made it more exciting for me knowing that this animal is still out there, and real. But, obviously, we took a tremendous amount of creative license.

Q: Has the controversy surrounding the marketing campaign (serial killer as human/superhuman/animal) detracted from the film or affected how it has been received by critics and the public?

A: Unfortunately, I feel it has detracted. I thought it was a noble attempt at getting the audience intrigued, but the result was that the audience felt that they were deceived.

Q: As a former musician, did you place special emphasis on things like sound design and editing? Does it bother you that most viewers (like those of us watching right now on our laptops) won’t get to experience the audio as you intended?

A: Absolutely. I really wish that everyone had the opportunity to not only view this on the big screen, but hear it in the theater, as it was intended. We put a tremendous amount of work into the sound design and the music. But, having said this, it is pretty damn cool that we can watch a movie on our computer, don’t you think?

Q: Since the horror genre has been overflooded with zombies, vampires and ghosts do you think it is time studios started going back to some big monster/animal features?

A: I think that if it’s a cool story, you should tell it, regardless of who or what is in it.

Q: Were any locations problematic to film in?

A: They all had their challenges. Working in water is always difficult. When we were on land, we had to deal with snakes, rhinos, etc. And, doing stunts outside in the jungle, has its own set of challenges as well.

Q: Is the design of the creature based on actual footage of the croc?

A: Yes. The jumping off point was Gustave. From that point, I set out to create a leaner, meaner croc. When you look at the real Gustave, he is sort of big and fat. I tried to make a scarier version of this killing machine.

Q: How do you quantify the validity of truth behind the story since there many legendary cases of giant crocs, sea monsters, etc…?

A: The only true part of this story is that Gustave has been killing people for between 80 to 100 years, and they estimate he has killed up to 300.

Q: Between this and Prison Break, I am curious: is Dominic Purcell capable of buttoning his shirt?

A: It was actually in his contract that it had to be unbuttoned, so I’m not sure what comes next for him.

Q: If this is based on a true story, why haven’t there been more media stories in the states about it?

A: I have no idea. There was a National Geographic documentary that plays on the Discovery Channel frequently.

Q: When casting comedic actors like Orlando Jones, who have some genre film experience with actors associated with dramas mostly, is it hard to keep the comedic actor’s wit from overpowering the presence of the other actors?

A: Yes, it is always a balance. You want to make sure that the scene doesn’t become about a joke, but that the scene remains about the initial intent.

Q: How much stock do you take in what the film critics have to say? It seems like a lot of critics had diverse reactions to the film.

A: Well, that’s tough. It’s a drag, because obviously, you would like everyone to like the film that you have worked tirelessly on, and I’m very proud of the film and how it turned out. But, that’s the beauty of film, there’s something for everyone, so I can’t let it bother me.

Q: Do you think having PRIMEVAL out there will inspire more crews to head out and try to capture Gustave?

A: No, I think if anything, if they saw the documentary, they might want to go capture Gustave, but I think people realize that this is a Hollywood film, loosely based on facts.

Q: What’s scarier, a rhino or a studio exec with notes on your dailies footage?

A: Definitely the studio exec.

Q: Did any of the people involved with the real killings have any part in the development of the script and/or filming?

A: No, not in person. Obviously we read about all their stories, so they did have a huge impact.

Q: Did Orlando ad-lib a lot of his lines or was the character written to be sort of a wise guy?

A: The character was written to be sort of a wise-guy, but having said that, Orlando did ad-lib a large majority of his lines. I have to say that was probably one of the most fun parts – turning the camera on, saying action, and seeing what came out of Orlando’s mouth.

Q: Was there a debate about CGI versus animatronics when it came to the design of Gustave?

A: We went down both roads, and CGI won out. It was far more flexible, and gave me a lot more latitude in editing to manipulate the crocodile, and make it scarier and more aggressive.

Q: Is the Croc a mechanical thing, a CGI creation, a man in a suit or a real animal? If it’s all of the above, which technique did you enjoy working with the most?

A: It’s all CGI. We shot plates, sometimes a barrel in the water to cause water movement. Back in Los Angeles, I worked with Luma, who did all of our visual effects, to create the scariest croc I could imagine.

Q: Is it hard to direct from someone else’s screenplay? Have you ever considered writing?

A: It’s actually quite fun to direct from somebody else’s screenplay. As soon as you read it, your imagination takes over, the visuals come to you, it formulates inside your mind, and it becomes your own. You are constantly re-writing the script during the process, so by the time you start filming, it pretty much becomes your own.

Q: Which deleted scene you felt sorry for the most to leave on the cutting room floor?

A: I actually don’t miss any of them. I deleted them myself because I thought that doing so made the film better. It’s all a process, and the film is constantly evolving – from the script, to in front of the camera, to the cutting room. I think you just have to sit back, look at the whole project, and do what is best for the film.

Q: Who did the makeup effects?

A: They were all done by the local make-up artists in South Africa.

Q: Was there ever a feeling that this film and “Rogue” (from the “Wolf Creek” guys) would step on the toes of one another, in promotion and in audience?

A: That is actually what influenced our decision on rushing our post schedule, we really wanted to beat that film out of the gate to be the first croc movie, not the other croc movie.

Q: You said this was shot entirely in Africa. As a director, what is more preferable: a set where everything is comfortable, but fake, or a real location that is full of life but possibly with uncomfortable shooting conditions?

A: It depends on what kind of film you are making. For Primeval, no question, a real environment, despite the potential for unfavorable conditions. It forces the actors to deal with nature. It makes it all more real. For photographic reasons, it is far more advantageous as well. Having said that, if I were shooting a film that took place all in interiors, I would prefer to build the set – making it much more accessible for camera, lighting, etc.

Q: Why “Primeval” and not “Gustave” for the title – what does the name “Primeval” dictate or require?

A: To be honest, it was titled “Gustave” for a very long time, but nobody really knew what that was or what it meant.

Q: Which sound was used to make the croc’s jaw snapping?

A: We used a series of sounds. There is some wood snapping, elephant sounds, snake sounds, croc sounds, and anything else that was cool. We looked at the dinosaurs from “Jurassic Park” as a template. They managed to make the sound frightening, and give it personality all at once.

Q: How difficult was it to create an entirely CGI character for daylight shots? You don’t see that a whole lot.

A: It was definitely challenging. The nighttime is much more forgiving. What added to the level of difficulty was putting the creature in water during the day. It just requires a lot more time, and a lot more patience.

Q: Was there ever an ending where Gustave was killed?

A: No, because he is alive, and we did want to stay true to that part of the story.

Q: What are you hoping people take away with them when the credits roll?

A: That they had a fun ride, and for the hour and thirty minutes, were able to forget about the outside world.

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