Emerging out of its seemingly permanent slumber, Full Moon’s magnum opus (watch out, Puppet Master!) finally arrives nearly three decades after its initial production timeline. Taking some obvious inspiration from projects including Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and The Land of the Lost, The Primevals captures a similar lightning-in-a-bottle energy. Initially filmed in 1994, the wildly ambitious feature was the brainchild of Charles Band and writer/director/animation effects artist David Allen. During post-production when Allen was to have completed the extravagant stop-motion-animated effects, he sadly passed away, and the movie fell dormant. Completed over the years by Allen’s assistant, Chris Endicott, and Band himself, The Primevals overflows with goodwill, and an immediate sense of wonderment. If this had been released in the late 90s, it would definitely be part of my regular Full Moon rotation as a budding youngster.
The secret is out, officially: the Yeti actually exists! Sassy-yet-classy anthropologist Claire (Juliet Mills, aka the witch Tabitha in timeless soap opera Passions) unveils “the most important discovery of the century” at a shocking press conference. Her former student, Matt (Richard Joseph Paul), who was once tossed for trying to complete his PHD on the coattails of his belief in the Yeti, is left stunned. His interests lead to Claire inviting him along on a journey to find more Yeti; it appears that the corpse they discovered underwent a kind of cranial surgery.
Tracking Yeti down could be the key to an even larger exposure of an ancient civilization—a veritable anthropologist’s wet dream. Claire wants Matt to not only join her, but also to co-author a book on the expedition. Along for the ride are Claire’s former student and tour guide, Kathleen (Walker Brandt), and Rondo (Leon Russom), a hunter with experience tracking down large animals. Village native Siku (Tai Thai) joins their ranks at a certain point too, expanding the full party to five members strong.
As the crew heads out on the road—following massive footprints, exploring alien ships, and conversing about gene splicing—Allen’s film embodies a comfort-watch atmosphere the likes of which are contagious. By the time the lizard-people force their way into the narrative, The Primevals has already found its sweet spot. The live-action actors do a great job, particularly Mills and Russom, who understand exactly what type of movie they are making here. Finished effects blend perfectly with previous footage, seamlessly integrating new with old. The Primevals feels fresh in a way few restored films actually do. Whether that is owed to the timeless quality of its narrative or the crispness of the picture itself, I cannot say.
Allen and Band have created something special here. The effects work is totally old-school, and will definitely evoke nostalgia for anyone that grew up in the 90s. Stop-motion animation combines with hammy acting, campy dialogue, and beautifully realized set design. This was the Full Moon I fell in love with. The Primevals never takes itself too seriously, and has all the makings of a VHS-tape cult classic. Even if we never see more from the Yeti or lizard-people, David Allen’s passion project vibrantly roars to life to thrill a whole new generation forevermore.
The Primevals screened at 2023’s Fantasia International Film Festival.