I’m not usually one for big nature horror movies like Godzilla or Eight Legged Freaks, but when I picked up Primeval on a lark I was not dis...

Primeval and the Monsters We Make

I’m not usually one for big nature horror movies like Godzilla or Eight Legged Freaks, but when I picked up Primeval on a lark I was not disappointed. Primeval follows a group of journalists who travel to Burundi, Africa in search of Gustave, a giant crocodile who has been feeding on humans along the banks of the Rusizi river. They find him, but this giant croc isn’t the only thing on the hunt as the crew find themselves in the middle of a violent and bloody civil struggle. Primeval is ultimately a film about the monsters we create, commenting on race and the media in the process.

The figure of Gustave, the monster croc, can be read as a natural parallel to the bloody conflict taking place in Burundi. Just as Gustave claims the lives of hundreds of unsuspecting Africans, so does the war. This parallel is made clear in the film’s opening scene as an excavation is under way to unearth a mass grave. When the expedition’s lead forensic anthropologist ventures too close to the water, she is snagged and torn apart by Gustave.

This parallel between Gustave and Burundi’s civil strife is natural considering that they are both part of a never ending cycle. It is the genocide and murder of hundreds of Africans that created Gustave in the first place. With too many bodies and not enough graves, the dead were thrown into the Rusizi river, where Gustave grew fat on their flesh. As one journalist puts it “We create our own monsters” Furthering this connection, the resident warlord even takes him name from the crocodile and is known as “Little Gustave” suggesting that their brand of violence is the same.
In addition to Gustave symbolizing the violence in Burundi, he is presented as a racial other that threatens the (for the most part) white journalists [Note: The one black member of the team, the cameraman is thoroughly Western and in a comedic moment confesses that slavery was a good thing—“anything to get out of Africa”]. The team’s cameraman comments that the croc “is like OJ Simpson. He fucked up when he killed that white woman,” referring to the death of the white, female forensic anthropologist in the film’s opener. When the crew of journalists is stranded in the middle of the river, the same cameraman says he feels like “a pork chop on Queen Latifah’s dinner plate,” once again reinforcing the racial threat that Gustave represents to the white reporters.
 In presenting Gustave as a racial other, the film also criticizes Western media, which only covers stories that concern whites. The only reason the expedition of journalists set out for Africa is because Gustave killed a Caucasian woman even though he is responsible for far more African deaths. When the cameraman captures the slaughter of an entire family on video the lead journalist wants to change the focus of her story from the croc to the civil war. The cameraman responds with “Americans don’t care about a bunch of dying Africans 6,000 miles away,” citing disasters like Darfur as proof that Western media turns a blind eye to stories that don’t involve whites.

Primeval was a surprise and became more than your standard big nature horror film with its critique of western media and the violence in Burundi using the croc Gustave.

1 comment:

  1. I almost bought this a few days ago. But, I couldn't pull the trigger. Now I will get back to Movie Stop and pick it up!

    Great review.