Throats are ripped, entrails devoured and friendships strained as campers wander through an accursed stretch of Australian wilderness in “Primal,” a slickly made Aussie shocker that enlivens a familiar narrative with daubs of straight-faced black comedy. Already available as VOD fare, pic could attract genre fans through fest and limited theatrical exposure before reaching homevid.After an aptly portentous prologue set 12,000 years ago, pic fast-forwards to find six friends scouring the countryside for ancient rock paintings. When one of their number — an oversexed blonde, naturally — skinny-dips in a secluded pond, she’s transformed into a fanged and furious predator. Very soon, another camper devolves, and develops an equally hearty appetite. Writer-helmer-editor Josh Reed generates modest suspense as uninfected campers dodge attacks by infected marauders, and debate whether even a friend who feasts on another friend should be killed. But there’s also an amusing undertone of absurdity throughout the pic, especially during arguments over the etiquette of self-preservation. (When the boyfriend of the ravenous blonde insists his sweetie is curable, he’s admonished: “Wake up and smell the viscera!”) Ensemble players neatly balance snarky humor and mortal terror.
An IFC Films (in U.S.) release of a Primal Films production in association with AV Pictures. Produced by Nigel Christensen, John Cordukes, Rob Gibson, Josh Reed. Directed, written, edited by Josh Reed; story, Reed, Nigel Christensen.
Camera (color), John Biggins; music, Rob Gibson; art director, Simon Elsey; costume designer, Emily Schulz. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, Oct. 1, 2010. (In Fantastic Fest.) Running time: 85 MIN.
Zoe Tuckwell Smith, Krew Boylan, Lindsay Farris, Rebekah Foord, Damien Freeleagus, Wil Traval.