The Primevals (Fantasia) Review

Arrow in the Head reviews the long-awaited Full Moon epic, The Primevals, starring Juliet Mills, Richard Joseph Paul and Leon Russom

PLOT: After the frozen body of Yeti is discovered, confirming their existence, a group from the University studying it heads to the Nepal wilderness and uncovers the findings of a lifetime.

REVIEW: My heart will always have a special place for the ingenuity and cleverness of Charles Band’s Full Moon Features. Famous for being one of the first independent companies to enter the home video market, focusing on creating weird cult B-movies with shoestring budgets and charm. Full Moon has a particular vibe that we all love, focusing on the horror and sci-fi genre through the lens of a dignified yet schlocky level of adventure. Band’s movies have a light sense of optimism and humor, even in his darkest tales, but The Primevals is a perfect example of the whimsical exploration flicks he was producing in the early to mid-’90s.

Created by the late great David AllenThe Primevals is a movie over forty years in the making. From its original pitch to Band in the late ’70s to its original starting production in the ’90s, The Primevals was born out of a friendship between Allen and Band. And, of course, their love of Ray Harryhausen. Producing what they could when they could, things eventually stopped after Allen’s early passing at the age of fifty-four. Throughout the years, Chris Endicott, Allen’s assistant and protege, alongside Band, has worked on it, piece by piece, leading us here to this very moment. It has finally been released and just debuted at the Fantasia film festival, and after all these years, it has finally been completed and shown to the world.

After the discovery of a yeti, University scientist Claire Collier (Juliet Mills), along with students Matthew (Richard Joseph Paul), Kathleen (Walker Brandt), and ex-big-game hunter Rondo (Leon Russom) head to the far reaches of the Himalayas to find more of the species. Throughout this journey, we meet strange hominids, yetis, aliens, lizard creatures, and Nepalis street thugs for good measure. Now, if you know ’90s Full Moon, you have an idea of what to expect in terms of tone, and this doesn’t disappoint. The Primevals rightfully transports you back to the era of the video store with cheeky characters, cheesy plot beats, and the primal craftsmanship of the independent market.

Cast-wise, everybody does well, though you must accept some stilted dialogue and the occasional goofy line read. There is a certain magic to the types of home video genre stories Full Moon produced in its heyday. Juliet Mills gives Claire a sense of class while Walker Brandt and Richard Joseph Paul play the straight-laced roles with some amusing embellishment. Leon Russom plays an extinct type of tough guy character that immediately brought me back to the days of renting whatever I could from the straight-to-VHS action genre. Rondo is a reformed big game hunter that’s always cool in every situation, husky voice and a nearby whiskey waiting to greet him when needed. He pulls off what just may be one of the greatest lines of dialogue with “The eyes of a dying giraffe can change a man.”

The live-action parts are better than expected, with some impressive (for Full Moon) set design, location shots, and matte paintings. At the same time, the stop-motion effects are fantastic, as one would expect, with Allen transporting you back to the days of old. It’s strange yet fascinating to see classic old-school effects mixed in with a ’90s live-action cast with crisp, high-definition looks. Obviously, they’ve had the film negatives, but it’s still impressive (and strange) to see how clean and crisp everything is, mainly since the actors shot their parts thirty years prior. As one would expect, a few cheesy modern polishes are used to blend a few background objects, and a couple of blue screenshots look rough, but overall, it’s impressive to see a ’90s Full Moon movie look this damn good.

I’m curious how well The Primevals would do with a general audience, as this is a love letter to an old friend with a passion for an antique style. As whimsical and optimistic as the story is, it’s hard to say if this will connect with anyone not already a fan of stop-motion or the catalog of Charles Band. But if you love fun low-budget genre movies, ones made with passion and determination, The Primevals does its job. Charles Band honored his late friend’s legacy and finished what meant so much to him. And so David Allen’s fun, schlocky Harryhausen-inspired sci-fi adventure has finally been released to the world. If you dig these kinds of stories, you’ll have a blast with this one.  

Full Moon debuted The Primevals at the 2023 Fantasia International Film Festival. 


Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

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Lance Vlcek was raised in the aisles of Family Video in the south suburbs of Chicago. He's a fan of fun schlock like Friday The 13th Part 7 and Full Moon Entertainment but also loves genre classics like Evil Dead and Big Trouble In Little China. Lance does many things outside of genre consumption, with his favorites being his homemade Chicago pizza recipe, homemade rum, and video editing. He has four Sugar Gliders, a love for beach bars, and claims Brett Morgen's favorite Bowie album must be Changesonebowie based on his soulless documentary!