Film Review: Fun, Retro 90s Stop-Motion “The Primevals”

the primevals 2024 film movie - movie poster one sheetImagine a 1970s-style adventure film made by a fabled b-movie team in the 1990s but not finished until late last year and you’ve got the backstory of the fun, retro The Primevals. If you’re just a bit tired of all the meta commentary and speechifying of the protagonists in modern cinema, you’ll find this is a fun, retro adventure film. It’s so far from the debate about “woke” storylines that even your cranky Uncle Bob can enjoy it without being triggered.

Researcher Kathleen Reidel (Walker Brandt) is living in Nepal with a local family, researching the legendary yeti when one is spotted! Everyone rushes out to find a beast that’s 20 feet tall and sufficiently angry that many locals get hurt trying to trap it. A neatly timed avalanche ends the scene, spelling the demise of the beast. Cut to a generic Midwestern university where Dr. Claire Collier (Juliet Mills) unveils the now-deceased monster to the shock and approbation of the press. Except for former grad student Rondo Montana (Leon Russom), who is still bitter about having his thesis rejected because he posited the existence of the Yeti and is surprisingly disgruntled about the find.

The body of a yeti is a great boon to science, but upon closer examination, there’s something odd about its skull. Dr. Collier determines that they need to travel to Nepal to examine other yeti in the wild. On her team are Kathleen, Rondo, Matt Conner (Richard Joseph Paul) and local Nepalese boy Siku (Tai Thai).

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People versus evil lizard men from “The Primevals”

But can they find another yeti? Will they unexpectedly reveal a long-secret tropical paradise hidden in the Himalayas a la Shangri-La? Are there strange lizard people who might not be of this Earth? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. And therein lies the fun of The Primevals; it’s not a serious film and it definitely doesn’t take itself seriously too. Fortunately, though, this doesn’t mean it’s satirical or snarky; as with many of the very best b-movie cult favorites, this film plays it straight with the entirely unforgettable cast all very good in their roles.

The heart of the film is the wonderful stop-motion animation. If you’re a fan of the great Ray Harryhausen who brought us eye-popping creatures in films like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and Clash of the Titans (1981), then you’ll love the work of The Primevals director David Allen. You’ve probably seen some of Allen’s b-movie work too, most notably in Mighty Joe Young (1949), Willow (1988), and Ghostbusters II (1989). He was also responsible for the fantastic creatures in the five-film horror series The Puppet Master.

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Stop motion guru David Allen setting up another shot for “The Primevals”

Stop motion has long since been replaced by computer effects in Hollywood. This apocryphally began with the original Jurassic Park (1993), that was originally slated to use stop-motion animation for its dinosaurs until a rogue team at Lucasfilm mocked up a computer-based effects shot for director Steven Spielberg. He was so taken by the sequence that he immediately pivoted from stop-motion to CGI for the movie, and, as they say, the rest is history. Stop-motion is still utilized for nostalgic purposes, but it was a bold move by producer Charles Band to fund the completion of The Primevals with the help of stop-motion animator Chris Endicott (sadly, David Allen passed away before even 10% of the stop-motion shots were completed).

The Primevals is an homage to Ray Harryhausen with the style and design of its stop-motion characters, and lizard people entirely reminiscent of the Sleestaks from the cheesy 1970s Land of the Lost TV series. None of the actors have hit it big since their work on the live action portions of the film (captured way back in the 1990s!), but this isn’t Great Drama, it’s delightful and entirely family-friendly entertainment. Better, though, is that it’s also agenda free, lecture free, and guilt free entertainment, meaning you can enjoy it with your kids without grumbling about political posturing or barely hidden agendas.

The Primevals is available for streaming, possibly with a small rental fee required, through Amazon Prime Video.


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dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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