Primal Rage (2017) Directed by Patrick Magee. Starring Casey Gagliardi, Andrew Joseph Montgomery and Jameson Pazak. A young couple’s drive through the mountains turns deadly when they encounter creepy locals and a legendary monster called Oh-Mah in the mist-shrouded forests of the Pacific Northwest.
We begin with Ashley picking up her husband Max on the day he’s released from state prison after a year and nine months. When he lights up a smoke in the car and she puts it out, we learn that they have a young son together. After pulling over to the shoulder of a heavily wooded road on their drive home, they attempt to have sex. Max’s abundance of excitement for this moment causes him to not perform, leading to tensions between the two.
If you’ve ever seen a thriller or horror film where city slickers or suburban folks head out to the boonies, you know the Golden Rule: Never stop at the local gas station. That’s how you meet terrifying weirdos who mess up your vacation fun. In “I Spit On Your Grave” way back in 1978, aspiring writer Jennifer Hills stops by a gas station and attracts the attention of a group of depraved rapists. In “The Hills Have Eyes,” the Carter family stops off for directions at Jeb’s station. They learn of a shortcut through the desert of New Mexico, and we all know how well that ended. Just stop, people. Gas stations in horror flicks provide a great place for local freakazoids to get a look at your wife/girlfriend/daughter, and inquire as to where exactly you’re headed.
At the gas station, Max encounters the local sheriff. He is searching for the latest in a long line of missing hikers, and butting heads with a paranoid shop clerk who brings up the Native American legend of Oh-Mah.
That’s one of Bigfoot’s many aliases, though the monster in this film behaves a bit differently than your traditional Sasquatch.
Meanwhile, the half-drunk good ol’ boys in the parking lot get an eyeful of pretty blonde Ashley. They hoot and holler and say things like: “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”
After getting underway, Max and Ashley get into a heated argument and accidentally hit a bleeding man standing in the road. Upon inspection of the victim’s body, they discover that he’s been partly eaten by something. There’s some really gnarly practical makeup in this scene. While Ashley calls the police, the couple is suddenly pelted with large rocks thrown from the forest. Max takes a direct hit to the forehead and tumbles down a roadside cliff into a raging river.
Ever loyal, Ashley dives in after him and saves her husband from drowning. As they fight against the surging rapids, there’s some nicely done and convincingly chaotic underwater photography.
While they recover by the water’s edge, a hairy creature emerges from the treeline and attacks Ashley’s car. It pushes the vehicle off the road, then picks up the half-eaten dude and heads off into the woods. We are treated to a nice shot of the monster’s large feet stomping through the mud as it retreats.
An angry local woman confronts the sheriff about her missing husband, and the cops trace Ashley’s 911 call. The sheriff sets out through the misty rain to find the caller.
Ashley and Max build a fire by the river and strip out of their wet clothes. The next morning, Ashley has a horrific nightmare about the half-eaten man pursuing her. She squats to pee in the woods before setting off with Max to find rescue. As she joins him, the monster secretly scoops up the soil she peed on and makes off with it.
Why you ask? To add it to his collection of stuff folks whizzed all over, obviously.
During the hike through deep and lush woods, the pair are vigorously shadowed by the creature. At one point they pass directly beneath it as it perches on a horizontal fallen tree. It looks like your typical Sasquatch wearing a wooden ceremonial mask. Max comes upon the good ol’ boys from the gas station doing a little hunting in the forest. Since Ashley apparently cannot wear slightly damp clothing that had been drying overnight at their makeshift campsite, she’s now wearing nothing but Max’s wife beater shirt and panties. After hiding the half-dressed Ashley, Max approaches the rednecks to ask for a phone to call for help. The morons give him the runaround, while the Oh-Mah creeps up behind Ashley and neatly cuts off a lock of her blonde hair with a knife made from stone. Though it vanishes before she sees it, the monster’s presence spurs Ashley to reveal herself to the hunters.
In atypical fashion, the backwoodsmen provide her with a heavy coat to cover herself and eventually agree to radio for some form of rescue. Max, his wife, and their new buddies set off for the hour-long hike to the hunter’s truck. During the walk, the Oh-Mah blatantly appears next to the trail, watching silently as the men pass. Nobody seems to notice the massive, red-eyed monstrosity mere inches away. The beast does everything but help carry the hunter’s guns and trail equipment.
“Primal Rage” begins to drag during this endless slog through the wilderness. The rednecks constantly mock Max for being an ex-convict and suggest that he is a bad influence on the community, while the sheriff and his deputy have stereotypically Native American conversations about peyote ceremonies and tribal legends. There’s quite a bit of talking, and not any of the sort of brutal violence the title of the film implies. We haven’t even seen Mildly Annoyed yet, let alone Primal Rage. And one minute the rednecks are begrudgingly helpful, only to turn threatening the next. It gets old.
When the beast finally strikes, it’s with a surprisingly sophisticated method.
Unlike your traditional movie Bigfoot, who throws victims around and behaves primitively, the Oh-Mah is more like an intelligent human antagonist with weapons and strategies. Imagine the movie “Predator,” but with no awesome lasers or invisibility camouflage. And instead of a dreadlocked alien, the antagonist is Harry from “Harry & The Hendersons.”
After pinning a redneck to a tree with an arrow, the monster pokes the man’s eyes out and crushes his head to a red pulp. Again, the practical effects are yummy. The assault leaves several hunters dead, Ashley kidnapped and Max knocked out.
A mysterious witch-like figure called The Whispering Woman discovers the dead hunters and an injured Max in the woods. She takes the unconscious ex-convict back to her remote shack and we see her hideously deformed face. Back at the Oh-Mah’s cavern home, which is decorated with dozens of severed heads on pikes, the monster removes its wooden mask and gets to know Ashley a lot better.
All these shenanigans eventually lead where you knew they would. Max and the monster have an action-packed showdown to see who is the better husband for Ashley.
It’s kind of like an episode of “The Bachelorette,” but with a lot more knives and roaring.
It’s hard to not be impressed by what “Primal Rage” has to offer. Makeup, creature design, gore effects, cinematography and editing are all far above the standard for low-budget horror. The film was shot around Crescent City, California, and faithfully captures the rain-soaked look of Pacific Northwest woodland.
There’s some sophisticated animatronics work on display, too. The Oh-Mah’s face isn’t just an unmoving rubber mask. It’s capable of making expressions and remarkably realistic, particularly around the mouth. In one particularly creepy scene, the monster makes a baboon-like face, baring its fangs and a large section of its upper gums in a threat display. For a type of hairy creature we’ve seen a billion times before, the Oh-Mah needed to set itself apart and make an impression on the viewer. And it does.
I’ve been on a streak lately of movies about wilderness monsters vs. clueless city folk.
First the tremendously awful “Clawed,” then the minimalistic but deeply effective “Willow Creek.” The former features an elaborately designed creature, and the latter never shows its hairy beast even once. The most we get are eerie sound effects. These two films and “Primal Rage” all have one subplot in common: the desire of an inhuman creature to mate with human women. Meanwhile, female Sasquatch are wondering why they aren’t good enough.
In “Primal Rage 2,” we need to see a female Oh-Mah get lost in Los Angeles and wind up hunted by a human dude who wants to get it on with Lady Sasquatch.
Make it happen, Hollywood.
Body count: 10
- A man is killed with an arrow through the neck.
- A man is shot with an arrow and has his skull crushed.
- A man is decapitated with a hatchet.
- A man is killed with an arrow in the mouth.
- A man is killed with a close-range shotgun blast.
- A man has his throat slit.
- A man has his head pulled apart and then crushed by a monster foot.
- A man is cut open and disemboweled.
- A man has his throat bitten open.
- A man is killed with two arrows through the chest.