Fantastic Fest Interview: ‘Primal’ Cast and Crew Talk Teeth, Tribes and Beastly Sex
Primal made its North American debut at Fantastic Fest, and was one of four movies featured by IFC Midnight. The film is available on IFC On Demand until December 22.
Synopsis: Six friends are on a trip exploring ancient cave paintings. Mel (Krew Boylan) decides to take a skinny dip, and becomes “infected” with an ancient entity. Bad things ensue as the pals quickly realize it is kill (Mel) or be killed. Primal is a genre bending movie that always has its tongue firmly planted in cheek. Check out the trailer below:
I got to sit down with director Josh Reed and stars Krew Boylan and Wil Traval during the festival for an exclusive interview.
FrothygGirlz: Josh, you directed the movie, did you write it as well?
Josh Reed: I wrote it from a story that Nigel (one of the producers) and I wrote.
FG: How did you guys come up with the concept? Did you draw on anything for inspiration? To me, there were some obvious nods to Cabin Fever, did you guys see that movie?
Krew Boylan: I haven’t seen that.
JR: I hadn’t seen it before, but I have seen it. I’ve seen and really like Cabin Fever, but we’d actually written the initial story, but I hadn’t written the script before I saw Cabin Fever.
FG: So did you have any Australian movies that served as influences?
JR: No, not really.
FG: Well, you have the whole “the water is infected” plot device.
JR: I mean, there were definitely a lot of films that influenced that film, but that specific idea of the water hole becoming infected was more a result of wanting to get that young group of people out camping, and just having fun and messing around and stuff. Then you have an aspect of things going pear-shaped on a specific one of them, and I guess it gave us a device that we could use later to reinfect another one. It was more that it worked as a really good device for the story. It wasn’t based on any legend or anything in Australia.
FG: I found it interesting when you guys were doing your Q & A that you were quick to point out that you bent over backwards to make sure that you were not following any specific legend. Were you worried you would offend a tribe?
Wil Traval: With all due respect to the indigenous people, you don’t want to misrepresent anybody.
JR: And the other thing is, we tend to look at their mythology as mythology, but they actually consider it history. So if we’re taking something and using it for our own purposes, that is their history, and ultimately we are making a horror movie, we’re not making a documentary. You just don’t want to be in the up with either being tied to something that doesn’t quite work for the story, or just changing and manipulating somebody else’s history just for your own purposes.
FG: So did you work with an anthropologist or historian to ensure that didn’t happen?
JR: No, just a close friend, Pauline Clague, who is a film producer, and she’s indigenous. There wasn’t any point at which she said, “I don’t think you should do that.” We were making stuff up, and it was only if we accidentally hit on something. The only point of concern for her was that the cave painting. The rainbow serpent is an important part of mythology, and she didn’t want the painting looking like it was representing that.
FG: Who did you have do the drawings (for the cave.)
JR: Gypsy Taylor is our production designer.
FG: Did you have them sketched out?
JR: She sketched them all out, she designed those. There are very different styles of Australian rock paintings, so she investigated those and came up with a style that would separate out from all of those, because if it was defined as being from, say, Southeast Australia or something like that, then that establishes whose territory we are dealing with, and then it can be like saying, “There is something wrong with your land.”
FG: You know, you can’t flat out say that this is a horror movie. You seem to have lots of genres in there. You specifically put some camp stuff in the movie that was fun. Did you know when you were starting this that you were going to do that?
JR: We definitely had an urge to get away from the relentless type of horror, we wanted to loosen up horror and have fun with it, without necessarily making a parody.
FG: (To Krew and Wil) So did you two have any background in horror?
Krew: None at all.
Wil: No. Back home I have been working on TV for the last 8 and 1/2 years, in medical dramas and cop dramas.
FG: I can see you being a cop.
Wil: So being cast in a horror film is completely new experience for me.
FG: (To Wil) How were you drawn to it? Did Josh come to you or send you the script?
Wil: When I read the script, I found the script really hilarious. I remember a moment in the audition when I asked Josh which direction did he want us to go as performers, in terms of the comedy, and he was like, “Well we’re not really going down that path, that I suspect you are thinking about, I need you to deal with this straight, as you would anything else normally, and don’t play it for gags. If anything comes out, then let it be.”
But yeah, I was excited about the concept of not being a cop, not being a doctor, but running around the forest with teeth and killing people. It was a real point of difference for me.
FG: (To Krew) And what about you?
Krew: I’ve done quite a lot of theater, and played a lot of guest roles on Australian TV, quite a lot of character stuff, but never horror. So I have never really been cast as the main aggressive girl, so it was exciting and challenging for me to take on that role and find that inner beast.
FG: (To Krew) By far, you had the most demanded of you physically by the movie. Those prosthetic teeth looked really uncomfortable.
Krew: It was really uncomfortable. I think I adjusted, once we got going.
FG: Did you have a separate piece for the top and bottom, and who designed the prosthetic teeth? Was it a dentist?
Krew: Gypsy Taylor (the production designer) designed it, and then we got two sets made, one here in the United States, that got flown out, and one in Sydney.
FG: Was it holding your mouth open, to make them look longer?
Krew: Yeah, I ate a lot of blood.
FG: What did you use for blood?
Krew: We had this great company in Sydney that made the blood not overly-sugary, in case I was diabetic (not that I am.)
FG: So you had the teeth, you had the nude scene, you had the leeches, and I’m assuming you were on a harness for some of those jumps?
Krew: I was never on a harness.
FG: So you were doing all the jumping, leaping, and such. Was that all you, or did you have a stunt double?
Krew: I had thought (about doing the stunts) because I am quite physical, and I used to be a dancer, so when Josh was 99% sure he was casting me, I said that I’m physical, I’m not a skinny wimp actress, I can pull it off. I got a real adrenaline rush, I really, really loved it. I got a little hooked. And when you do the stunts, you do get over-excited, and the adrenaline is rushing-I may miss the mat quite a few times, but you’re so excited.
FG: (To everyone) So, what was the most fun you had making the movie? [looks at Wil] You got to have all the sex!
Wil: Wait, that’s a great story. So we shot that sex scene between the two of us (Krew and Wil) and then later on after they finished putting the film together, Josh called up and said that the sex stuff didn’t quite work, and that we had to do it again. It was great, because we ended up going with a much smaller crew, and when we were in the middle of having that monster sex, grunting and growling at each other, and we realized that the crew was only four or five people. So it was kind of like this weird, zombie/sex/animal/porn thing being shot and we just looked at each other and found it rather hilarious.
That fight scene, too, that was one of the funniest nights too. We had a lot of pressure that night, we were kind of running out of time…
FG: Did you have fight choreographers?
Krew: We had Grant Page, and he did quite a bit of the choreography, and he knew what looks good, and what sells.
Wil: Grant Page really wanted a lot of ball kicking in the fight. He wanted me kicked in the balls a lot.
FG: I’ve seen that in a lot of movies here.
Wil: He choreographed four moments of it!