The Movie Archive

Primal Species (1996)

US Title: Carnosaur 3: Primal Species

Movie Poster of Primal Species

Directed by: Jonathan Winfrey
Screenwriter(s): Rob Kerchner
Starring: Scott Valentine, Janet Gunn, Rick Dean, Anthony Peck
Genre: Roger Corman / Horror
Country: USA
Running time: 1h 25m
Rating: 2 out of 10

A few weeks before Jurassic Park hit cinemas in the US, Roger Corman financed a limited cinema release for his own JP-lite, Carnosaur, which featured Diane Ladd as the head scientist trying to prevent the world from dinosaurs run amok. Is it any coincidence that Diane Ladd, Corman’s star, is the mother of Laura Dern, star of the Speilberg version? No, of course it’s not; that’s the genius of Corman.

Carnosaur did well enough to make it worth Roger’s time and money to finance a sequel featuring John Savage and Cliff DeYoung (one of the Movie Archive’s favourite TV and DTV faces). By the third instalment, released in the UK just as Primal Species, Roger had clearly run out of money and stars. In fact, arguably the biggest star—in terms of the target audience of this film—is Rick Dean who, despite being killed off in the second film, proved popular enough to return here as a completely new character.

The joy of the Carnosaur series is that, just like its Speilberg counterpart, one plot fits all sequels. Evil scientists dick about with nature by resurrecting dinosaurs which invariably get set free to terrorise some hapless humans. In this case, evil government scientists resurrect dinosaurs, hoping that they’ll be the ultimate killing machine, but the dinosaurs—sorry carnosaurs—get hijacked by terrorists who’re actually looking to rip off some plutonium. Cue looks of surprise when they open the back of the truck, followed by screams of death.

Corman the producer has doubtless influenced the perfunctory script into sticking to just three locations—the military base, the docks and the desert. Most of the film, in fact, takes place inside either a warehouse or the hold of a ship, both of which may actually be the same set, given that both feature grey metal walls and packing crates.

To ensure the audience is entertained, the script steals from bigger, better movies. The rag-tag bunch of US Marines who turn up to help retrieve the carnosaurs might as well have kept the character names from Aliens, as they’re a virtual carbon copy, including butch Hispanic chick, scared commander and boorish sergeant. We also have dinosaur’s eye view of the prey which you’ll remember from Predator and countless other alien/monster movies.

Although the action parts of the movie are acceptable in a DTV/late night TV sort of a way, it’s the acting that really grates. By this, I do not mean Dean, who is the cinematic double of US comedian Rich Hall both in look and tone. No, it’s former sitcom star Valentine and his love interest Gunn who really spoil the fun. Although painful enough to watch separately, it’s excrutiating to see them share a scene.