Gimme Something to Watch: Primer

I love nerd shit so much that I can’t help but write nerd posts about nerd shit so it is quite convenient that this glorious site boasts a category of “Nerd Shit” (Joe, if I ever abuse this power please let me know and I’ll go back to reviewing shit music). Today I want to sell you on Primer, a fantastic sci-film film that was made on a shoestring budget of around $8,000* and released in 2004.

*I want to get this out of the way very quickly:  there is a SMALL amount of controversy surrounding the film’s budget. For example, the director had a friend who worked for a metal fabrication company who made some props for free for use in the film. It’s connections like these that may skew the “official budget” of the film. I’m pretty sure the director had no ill intentions here.

In this day and age, any John Q. Driveway can bedroom-produce an album and sell it to the masses. Occasionally, one of these bands will come out of nowhere with a brilliant record and make a HUGE impact on the metal scene (for instance Cloudkicker). On the flip-side, well established bands who may possess a seemingly limitless amount of money can produce absolute turds (COUGH, Metallica, COUGH). Sometimes that tiny budget makes an artist hungry to create something amazing, as perfectly exemplified in the indie Sci-fi film “Primer”.

primerpostertimez_LargeWide

Primer is the most air-tight time travel film ever created. I’m not spoiling anything with that description. You can easily discover about what this film is by reading any review of it. The tagline of the film is “What happens if it actually works” and the back of the DVD case will tell you about some engineers who stumble upon an invention with dire consequences or something. Non-spoiler alert: they inadvertently create a time machine!!!

To get a quick taste of how much of a mindflush this film actually is, view this image for a very quick moment and then immediately close it. It is the Primer timeline explained.

I think I can guess your biggest concern already: that an engaging time-travel film is not possible because of the limited budget for special effects. And here I’ll counter that with one statement: there is ONE special effect utilized in the entire film and the rest is done 100% successfully with available talent, i.e. the man behind the camera and the actors contained within the lens. Early on in the film one of the characters asks another, “what would you do if you could re-live a day?” The response had something to do with punching his boss. Sure, that is an easy start (considering at that point, they weren’t aware of the time travel device) but the plot goes deeper. DEEPER. Until you see this film, you have no idea how engaging the time travel device eventually becomes. Primer doesn’t require a gigantic budget to accomplish grandiose goals. Just like a single metal musician can create a terrific album of music without the benefit of having a gigantic budget, “Primer” succeeds because of the creative and intellect of its creator: Shane Carruth.

I has seen the film three times (this was years ago… to date I’ve seen it 20+ times) when I watched it with my friend Garry one Saturday afternoon. When it ended, we immediately watched it again. This is that kind of film (it also helps that it’s only 80 minutes long minus the credits). We NEEDED to know exactly what happened. We NEEDED to piece together the different timelines. But here’s the catch, not knowing the exact timeline(s) of events didn’t prevent either one of us from enjoying Primer. You know the movies about which I speak, the ones that don’t require 100% understanding to enjoy:  The Forbidden Zone or, more recently Beyond the Black Rainbow. We can intrinsically enjoy these films without knowing exactly what is going on. Primer, like those films, is still entertaining and engaging without requiring an exact knowledge of everything that happens.

Look at this freaking trailer! Would you ever guess this to be a low-budget, sci-film? No way!

On the opposite end of the time travel film spectrum is a flick FILLED with logical fallacies: Back to the Future. Don’t get me wrong, that trilogy is far from bad, but they don’t REALLY tackle the intricacies of multiple selves existing in one reality. Primer is the rare time travel film that considers what happens to the other selves: so you travel a week in the past, what is the other self still doing in his/her timeline of a week ahead of you? What impact do you have on him, what impact does he have on you? If time travel was a thing, these concepts would truly matter. Let’s also consider this… what would you actually DO if you possessed this ability. These are the situations that are handled deftly in “Primer”. You will never, at any point during this film scream at your television, “THAT’S NOT PLAUSIBLE!!!”

So lets wrap things up, “Primer” was created on a budget of which many metal band would be envious.  And I’m not giving this film a pass because of its small budget, as every aspect of the film is SO professionally done (this is Shane Carruth’s FIRST movie? That’s it, I’m never making a film). The acting, production, directing, and writing are better than most contemporary Hollywood types could produce. The plot is more engaging than… well, this might be the most complicated time travel film ever filmed! Flaws? I can’t think of one. Okay it’s a stretch but the characters do talk over each other in the beginning, but they are engineers by profession and are probably acting as we all would in these circumstances. As it stands, Primer is in my top 5 films of all time. You all already know about “Ravenous” and someday you might know all five.

Written by:

Published on: February 26, 2015

Filled Under: Not Metal, Opinion

Views: 1412

Tags: , ,

  • Dagon

    Nerd Shit >>>>

    I need to watch this again, I tried doing it with one of my best buddies but I passed out in the middle. This should be a recurring feature, BTW. I know there are major film buffs in the Toilet who could at least give the recommendations.

    • KJM

      I’d recommend ‘Beyond The Black Rainbow’ which is also mentioned in this piece.

      • Look forward to a post on that in the near-ish future.

        • KJM

          Dig it. The director, Panos Cosmatos, follows me on Twitter and we talk occasionally. I’ll steer him in the direction of that piece when it goes online.

          • Dagon

            Nice!

          • KJM

            Fun fact: His first concert was David Lee Roth ‘Skyscraper’ tour in 1988. #CosmatosFacts

          • Dagon

            Mine was a SoaD cover band in middle school. Does that count?

            I then watched IRA!, O Rappa and Sepultura when I was 13 years old, which was a fucking blast.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            My first concert was Neil Young. I saw him when I was 6. It was a good show.

          • KJM

            Dio Sabbath, 1982. I was a month away from my 15th birthday.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Dude, no way. BTBR may be my favorite film of the last 5 years.

            http://i.imgur.com/15DLgkL.gif

          • KJM

            Same here, along with Kill List and A Field In England. Ben Wheatley is the man. I may have fangirl squeed when I heard he was gonna direct Doctor Who.

          • the music alone in BTBR gives me chills.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          Hoping to finish it this weekend. It’s not for everyone, but everyone should give it a shot.

          • KJM

            Is that what you were referring to in our convo about House Of The Devil? If so, you were right on the money about me liking it.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Yes indeed. I absolutely love slow films with minimal dialogue and extra care given to atmosphere and interesting cinematography. Valhalla Rising is another great one.

          • KJM

            Solaris(1972)?

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Never seen it but have read awesome things

          • KJM

            It should be right up your alley, especially if you liked 2001. It’s easily one of my top sci-fi movies of all time. I refuse to see the 2002 Soderberg(sp?) remake.

          • JVVG

            I don’t think much of any recent science fiction films, especially remakes. Except ‘Moon’. That was right up my alley…

          • KJM

            Moon was excellent, 4 star brilliance all the way. I’ll probably watch it over the weekend now that you’ve mentioned it.

          • Moon was great, but so is pretty much anything Sam Rockwell is in. Here’s some good fairly recent sci-fi flicks: Europa Report, Pandorum, Eden Log

          • JVVG

            I enjoyed Pandorum FWIW, so did the guy I know who used to work at the local video store (side story: it only closed permanently at the end of August last year).

            I recommended it to him, not as you might expect vice versa.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Cool, just put it on the Netflix queue. I’ve been in need of a new droned-out film for winter. Last good one I saw was Phase IV, the Saul Bass intelligent ants one.

          • KJM

            The Phase IV soundtrack is finally getting an official release this year, sure took long enough.
            https://soundcloud.com/waxwork-records/phase-iv-phase-i

          • KJM

            In fact, you can buy the soundtrack right now!
            http://waxwork-records.myshopify.com/products/phase-iv

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Dude!

          • KJM

            I’m glad that I have a functional turntable.

    • Timecrimes. Triangle.

  • Edward/Breegrodamus

    Good shit Jimmy, this sounds like a movie I would like to watch. Your bit about watching it twice in a row reminded me of the film Memento.

    Back to the Future and the sequel >>>>>>>>>

    • KJM

      FWIW, I liked Primer far better than Memento.

      • Tyreeling In The Years

        Memento is cool and all, but I really have no desire to watch it again.

        • Edward/Breegrodamus

          I needed to watch it a second time to get a grasp on the timeline and how everything went down.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            I can see that, but I don’t want to figure out the puzzle again on my dvd to watch it again. Hahahaha!

            Too much work to watch a goddamn movie.

        • KJM

          I hated the ending, despised it even.

        • Wow. That’s pretty much exactly how I feel about it.

    • If you like Memento, you’d probably dig the French movie Irreversable. The entire movie is like watching in rewind but very well done.

      • Tyreeling In The Years

        Irreversable is awesome. I love how that movie was shot.

        The cinematography is also incredible.

      • Edward/Breegrodamus

        I’ve heard of that because of a controversial scene. I should check that shit out.

        • Yeah, there’s a rape scene that’s pretty uncomfortable. It’s not terribly graphic that I remember but it probably goes on for longer than it should.

  • Dagon
    • Maik Beninton
      • Dagon

        We had a little chat about Terry Gilliam on this week’s Porcelain Throne and also a thread on the fb group. There’s a lot of fans here.

        • Maik Beninton

          I like how he keeps remembering that dream.
          It’s like is telling him what will happen.

          • Drewcifer

            I really like that the whole movie (Spoiler Alert, but if you haven’t seen 12 monkeys you deserve pain in your life,) is based on a red herring. It makes it all kind of a wink, wink, nudge, nudge throughout.

    • I’m telling you. Animated movie posters ARE the future! :O

    • Edward/Breegrodamus

      Pretty bomb imho

      • Edward/Breegrodamus

        *didn’t love the ending though, kinda generic after what was initially a sweet sci-fi ride.

        • Dagon

          I second that. Should have ended in a much weirder or interesting way. The concept of the movie is killer, though. I’d like to see more stories in that “universe”, so to speak.

        • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

          It wasn’t generic to me

          • Maik Beninton

            It was kinda.
            I guess it would be more interesting seeing how everything was looping rather than just displaying as part of the character’s realization.

      • Dagon

        It just took me a while to look past the things they did to Gordon-Levitt’s face in order to make him look like Bruce Willis.

        Emily Blunt saved my eyes though.

        Blunt >>>>>>>>>

        • Edward/Breegrodamus

          Agreed on Blunt, disagreed on JGL’s face I thought that was pretty neat lol

          • Dagon

            It didn’t bug you one bit? I didn’t know who was on the film because I randomly watched it in one of those nights you can’t fall asleep. It took me forever to realize it was Gordon-Levitt.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            No, in fact quite the opposite. I saw it in the theater though and knew it was JGL going into the thing.

          • Drewcifer

            When I saw the film I was unsettled the entire time because I couldn’t determine whether or not JGL’s face had prosthetics on it or not. When I discovered that it was in fact the case I had a hard time reconciling the fact.

        • holy crow, am i in love with her! dose tight jeans…

    • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

      I did. I loved it.

    • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

      Good slick entertainment but I wasn’t convinced by the basic logic of time travelling assassination. If tagging technology is that good, wouldn’t there just be a bunch of places, or one, where a bunch of people have suspiciously vanished? Also I’m kind of a nerd and would have really liked more of a study into the environment/mindset that makes a looper. Getting paid to kill yourself seems like a way heavy deal to me but it seemed like more of a light plot device here.

    • oh yes, i adore this film, for multiple reasons. one being Bruce Willis kicks everyone’s ass in it.

      • Lacertilian

        That’s one of the main reasons I enjoyed The Wrong Man (although I think it’s called Lucky Number Slevin for some reason in the USA.

        • Enemy Of The Free World

          It’s Slevin here too!

    • Tina…The Brutal Fey

      Anyone seen Brick? It’s also directed by Rian Johnson and stars JGL. Recommended.

      • Drewcifer

        Brick is fantastic, I love the hard boiled dialogue! was it not written by the same guy as looper?

        • Tina…The Brutal Fey

          Yes, Rian Johnson. He also directed three episodes of Breaking Bad and is now working on the new Star Wars films.

  • KJM

    Carruth is a FUCKING GENIUS. This is one my favorite movies of the past 15 years. Another being the previously mentioned ‘Beyond The Black Rainbow which is one of the best acid trip/stoner sci-fi movies of recent years and a love letter to Cronenberg and Carpenter.

    • Dagon

      I like Cronenberg. Still haven’t figured out ExistenZ completely, though.

      • LOVE ExistenZ.

        • Dagon

          Watched it 2 or 3 times. First one I was still a kid.

        • Scrimm

          I have always meant to watch that but never did. I suck.

          • Dagon

            This is all you need for incentive:

            http://i.imgur.com/GFI8wcT.gif

          • Scrimm

            GROSS

          • EsusMoose

            Nope with a large order of screaming like a children

      • Edward/Breegrodamus

        I love later era Cronenberg because I’m a Cronen-poser who hasn’t seen the bulk of his earlier films.

        • KJM

          While I am a much bigger fan of his earlier stuff. My faves are Shivers, The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            I got Scanners and Videodrome on Criterion. I heard rumors that they are going to include The Brood as well.

          • KJM

            Sweet, love Criterion discs. Seeing the Criterion credit followed by the Janus Films one is like film nerd heroin to me.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            I need to pick up their latest release of Eraserhead.

          • KJM

            As much as I love Lynch, I don’t think I’ll ever sit through that again.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            Did you see Naked Lunch?

          • KJM

            Oh my yes, many times.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            I forgot that I have that one too. The disc is missing though, Grrrrrrrrr. Loved it though.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I love Videodrome! I also love the Gingerdead Man series. I have the third one in a B-movie six pack I bought from Best buy which also has Killjoy 3 and 4 other movies I’ve never heard of.

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            Shivers and Rabid are my favourites. Rabid’s central image/casting combo has to be up there among the most inspired in all genre cinema.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            Rabid is the one in the Apartment building right?

          • KJM

            That’s Shivers.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            Aw, I saw Shivers then. Still need to see Rabid.

          • KJM

            That’s the one with Marilyn Chambers, very similar plot to Shivers.

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            For context/funzies, try some of Marilyn Chambers’ earlier films before Rabid.

          • KJM

            Hehehehe

          • Dagon

            Have you watched Videodrome? There’s a scene in it I think you’d like tremendously.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            Oh my yes.

          • JamesGrimm

            Scanners is the shit. Michael Ironside is my man crush.

          • KJM

            Such a great villain.

      • Edward/Breegrodamus

        Initially I tried to defend the film Only God Forgives because I’m a big fan of Nicolas Refn and I’ve seen most of his films and I love love love Drive and Bronson but it occurred to me OGF was pretty terrible and I stopped.

        • Dagon

          Drive is AWESOME.
          I used to get in my car alone to drive around listening to that film’s soundtrack. #toiletconfessions #dagonfacts

        • I could not make it through this movie. I either fell asleep or turned it off.

        • NSFW

        • Valhalla Rising is also awesome.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            It was very cerebral.

      • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

        Existenz was an awesome movie. I saw it years ago

    • i’m so glad someone else enjoys Beyond the Black Rainbow. i showed a few friends and they hated it. i have yet to watch it on drugs, it might be amazing or i might become paranoid as all get-out.
      also, love letter to Kubrick, and others that i can’t remember…

      • KJM

        Definitely not a movie for everybody. I really hope he makes more like it.

      • Scrimm

        Still never seen it.

        • KJM

          At the very least you’ll probably enjoy the soundtrack, retro electronic music just like classic Carpenter.

          • Scrimm

            It’s on the list. Again.

  • Tyreeling In The Years
  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    I have problems with time travel movies, I don’t really have the brain for them. I can deal with killer robot driving instructor travels back in time to save the future or Sound of Thunder situations or basic loop stuff, but once you start getting into multiple realities and copying its like my brain fuses and I just lose track of anything that’s supposed to be going on. This said I still liked Primer. I think it does a very good job of simulating unease, watching it felt at times like real times when I’d been up for a few days straight and everything was feeling weird. It’s not something I can necessarily see myself revisiting a lot but its a pretty impressive achievement.

    On a related note I got Upstream Color for Christmas but haven’t seen it yet. Looks pretty awesome though!

  • KJM

    My only criticism of ‘Primer’ is that it has no emotional center at all. Without getting spoilerific, the two main characters are near total scumbags who will stop at nearly nothing to accomplish their goals.

    Carruth cures that problem with his 2nd movie, Upstream Color, one of(if not the best) the best movies of 2013 and it’s dripping with emotion and sympathetic characters.

    • VVayne Brady

      Man, Upstream Color left me feeling very gloomy.

      • KJM

        Agreed, but it was still incredible.

    • i need to watch that one. tried with friends & booze — turns out that’s not a good combination.

      • KJM

        Nope. It’s a movie that requires full attention.

  • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

    I’ll have to watch this. Thanks for the suggestion Jimmy!

  • Sounds interesting Jimmy. I like movies that initially confusing, it gives them replay value.

  • Dagon

    Can we write about “dumb” action filmes like Crank? It’s stylish as hell lol

    • Crank and especially Crank 2 are two of the greatest action films of all time.

      • Dagon

        I love them both. Like, a lot.

      • Tyreeling In The Years
        • Dagon

          The Brazilian movie I talked about in ToH:FB a while ago, “Dois Coelhos”, resembles Crank a lot, technically. There are lots of animation and text incorporated into the scenes.

          I love it when they do that.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            That’s part of the reason I like the movie so much.

      • Scrimm
        • Tyreeling In The Years

          I actually really enjoyed this movie. Would watch again.

          • Scrimm

            Me too. I’ve seen it several times.

        • kurt wimmer = serious offender of “beginner’s luck”.

          • Scrimm

            ??

          • Equilibrium is great! Ultraviolet was a gigantic pile of garbage. and he wrote (but didn’t direct) Law-Abiding Citizen, also rubbish.
            whoops, turns out Equilibrium wasn’t his first film (my bad)!

          • I heard Ultraviolet has the highest on-screen body count in movies. I’ve thought watching it just because of that.
            That, and I like action movies.

          • Scrimm

            People were saying it was better than Equilibrium when it came out. Those people are very wrong.

          • Is it at least entertaining? Because I saw that cowboy vampire movie (Cross or whatever) hoping for some cheap thrills and it was disappointingly boring.

          • Scrimm

            It’s been a long time so I don’t really remember. Milla Jovovich annoys the hell out of me though so I’m gonna say no.

          • Scrimm

            Don’t feel bad I thought it was his first too. Yeah Ultraviolet was complete shite.

          • Lacertilian

            I never bothered to watch Law Abiding Citizen after seeing the trailers combined with the laughable title.

        • I’ve never seen it! I need to resolve this.

          • Scrimm

            Yeah you should. It has aged a little but it’s still definitely worth a watch.

          • I saw it on Netflix fairly recently.

        • Further Down the Metal Hole

          Without knowing anything about it prior to my first watching, I was very pleasantly surprised. The concept is great and of course, gun kata is the shit. I really need to rewatch it, been too long.

      • Further Down the Metal Hole

        Shame I can only upvote once, what a shame.

  • VVayne Brady

    Predestination was an interesting time travel movie that came out recently.

    As far as low budget films that I love, check out Attack the Block and Ink.

    • Scrimm

      Attack the Block was an ass kicker.

  • Sorry Jimmy: The makers of this film clearly ran out of time/money before they could complete it. Starts out very taut and engaging; halfway through, unravels completely into an incomprehensible lack of story.

    On the upside, Shane’s next film, Upstream Colors, is fantastical.

    • i can’t agree with you on the “incomprehensible lack of story”, however if the part about running out of time and money turns out to be true i wouldn’t put up a fight.

      i’ve only seen parts of Upstream Color, which makes me a Shane Carruth poser right now!

      • As a fan of most things Lynchian, I’m no stranger to abstraction and the nonlinear. But all four times I’ve watched Primer I’ve failed to follow the plot past about the midway mark. Timecrimes fucked with multilayered time travel wonderfully. Primer just looks like an incompletely thought-out job to me. Agree to disagree, I guess.

        • KJM

          All I can recommend is that next time you see it(if there is one), pay more attention to Carruth’s character, especially the scenes where he’s sitting outside on the bench listening to “the radio”.

        • While I don’t necessarily agree with you about Primer, Timecrimes is fantastic! Glad someone else is repping that one here. Another good one (though not as good as Timecrimes) is Triangle with Melissa George (yowza!).

      • KJM

        It’s on Netflix Instant. You should make it the next movie you watch.

        • Elusive warrior, i have a digital copy…I should watch it tonight! I know the guy is a genius and I loved what I saw thus far. is it a tough story to understand?

          • KJM

            If you can grasp Primer, you can hang with Upstream Color. The premise is relatively straightforward, but the way it unfolds isn’t.

  • Dagon
    • KJM

      The first DVD I ever bought.

  • Scrimm

    Low budget, DIY movies are often the best. Case in point.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIRVOepV9Ik

  • i want to offer a large amount of gratitude to whomever edited this article for me!!!

    • Scrimm

      Editing is harder than people realize. Editing yer own stuff, even harder.

      • an editor is definitely a required position. i look at my work and think “it’s perfect!”
        i can’t imagine how difficult it is for creators of actual art like music and film!

        • Scrimm

          When I go back and look at my writing it’s a lol factory. Then I think I fix it and go back again it’s amazing how much you miss. especially iwith longer pieces.

      • KJM

        Video editing is tedious, boring work with a huge payoff.

        • Scrimm

          Same with music. I really need to get an editor for my books cause I just can’t do it, my grammer sucks way too bad. They are expensive though.

  • CT-12

    Great job Jimmy, I have to give Primer another watch, was way too tired when I originally saw it and couldn’t really wrap my head around all of the intricacies of the plot. Thanks for sharing bud, great writeup!

    • I took over your idea. punish me!!!

      • CT-12

        Hahaha, it’s no problem dude. I’ve been meaning to write about a bunch of movies, but have just been busy with too much other shit. Finally just got done and submitted an album review I’ve been overthinking way too much, so maybe I’ll finally get to writing up some GSTW’s and hopefully add to the Porcelain Throne

  • I love it when people recommend really interesting-sounding movie to watch and then I go online to found out I CAN’T STREAM THEM ON NETFLIX FUCK.

    • KJM

      Upstream Color is on Netflix Instant.

  • Drewcifer

    I fucking push this movie on everyone I meet like a psychotic homeless person. So much so, that upon readin this article I went to place it in my DVD drive and discovered that both of my copies are missing, being that I lent them to someone like some altruistic prophet.

    • STANKBEARD

      Have you been welcomed?

    • KJM

      DVDs are like books. You shouldn’t lend them out unless you’re cool with possibly never seeing them again.

      • STANKBEARD

        This is why there’s only one person I ever trade books with

        • Drewcifer

          Yeah I used to work at blockbuster so I have like 400 movies, In college I was an anal nerd who would write down your lendings and phone number on my dry erase board. I still constantly discover missing casualties of that era.

    • digital copies in HD available from the website!

  • Virgil the Ghost Poet

    Jimmie I will keep an eye out.

  • KJU’s Breakdancing Bodybags

    Damn, this is a blast from the past!

  • KJM
  • Further Down the Metal Hole

    Thanks for reminding me about Primer. I still haven’t seen it but really, really want to. Need to check whether it’s on Netflix.

  • Lacertilian

    Great review @James_Jimmy_McNulty:disqus you have a knack for giving us enough of a sniff to pique interest without spoiling the journey.
    Ravenous was awesome, I’ve shown a few of my mates and they enjoyed enough to watch it a couple of times. I’ll have to give this a whirl.

  • George Clarke

    this movie gets my seal of approval