★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
You’re gonna wish it was just lyme disease.
I didn’t expect writer/director Mark Young’s [Phreaker (2004), Tooth and Nail (2010)] latest offering, Feral, to be so polarizing. Written with the help of Adam Frazier, the movie is sitting around a 4 out of 10 rating on IMDB and, after a brief Google session, it looks like other reviews online were split about 50/50 on it. People either find it shallow but entertaining or they pan it as being ridiculous. C’mon, people! What’s not to like?
Distributed by IFC Midnight, Feral feels like the lovechild of Cabin Fever (2002) and 28 Days Later (2002) that was then abandoned in the woods and left to fend for itself. Consequently, it didn’t grow up to be as slick and polished as its parents, but you can still see the resemblance.
The movie opens with six recent college grads hiking across the countryside. The shots of the hikers are well done and the scenery is gorgeous. With plans of camping next to a relaxing lake to unwind from their hectic school schedules, they consult their map and decide they’re not going to make it before nightfall. A camp site is chosen and tents are set up. Alice [Scout Taylor-Compton; Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), The Runaways (2010)] is the most familiar with tent construction so she helps out her girlfriend, Jules [Olivia Luccardi; It Follows (2014), Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black (2014-2017)], and then lends a hand to the other couples:
- Jesse [Brock Kelly; Pitch Perfect (2012)] isn’t in the best of moods and Gina [Landry Allbright; Con Air (1997), Last Hours in Suburbia (2012)], Jesse’s girl, doesn’t really want to be there in the first place.
- Matt [George Finn; LOL (2012)] and Brienne [Renee Olstead; Unfriended (2014)] are having a good time and shortly after everyone turns in for the night they are…
Engaged to be married. Hey, congratulations! After the joyous moment, Matt must yield to Nature’s Call and leaves the tent in search of a good spot for it. Apparently, he’s got a shy bladder because he seems to walk a long way in search of the perfect tree for watering. He walks soooo far that nobody in camp hears his screams when he’s brutally killed by some vaguely human-like creature. Admittedly, the fact that nobody heard him was a little odd. It’s possible he just wasn’t all that great at screaming, though. When Brienne goes out looking for him and gets attacked for interrupting the creature’s midnight snack, everyone in camp can hear her scream.
And that’s when things start barreling downhill. Brienne isn’t doing so well after getting chomped. The remaining graduates do what they can for her, but things are looking bleak. Suddenly, the group gets a little boost of hope when they meet Talbot (Lew Temple; TV’s The Walking Dead (2012-2013)] who lives nearby!
In a cabin…
in the woods.
Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine.
As things move along we learn that Brienne is infected with a virus. A virus that will eventually turn her into a creature, too. Twenty miles from the nearest road and with time running out, the rest of the group struggles with loyalties, jealousy, and trust. Should they run for help? Should they stay and fight? Can they count on ol’ woodsy Talbot? I gotta say I enjoyed finding out.
Is it a perfect movie? Obviously not or I’d be using a lot more capital letters and exclamation points in this review. For one, the writers chose to have their characters do some classically stupid things. When you know there are horrible creatures outside hungering for your flesh and you hear a noise, you probably shouldn’t fling open the front door and dash out onto the porch to take a look. When the group decides that sleeping should be done in shifts for protection, you probably shouldn’t all fall asleep. Especially not more than once!
Plus, some of the dialog was a bit… lackluster. Truthfully, not very much of it, but that only made the awkward parts stick out more. For example, when Alice and Gina find a hatch in the cabin that leads down to the basement. Gina, for some reason, doesn’t know what it is. “What’s that?” And Alice, who I can only assume has merely read about basements in books (?), tries to explain, “I think it’s a basement or something.” To Alice’s credit, she hit the nail on the head. It was a basement. See Alice? All that reading paid off. Please support your local libraries.
Standard horror movie irritations aside, though, the rest of Feral was thoroughly entertaining. With IFC Midnight behind you, you can catch some experienced acting talent. Scout Taylor-Compton and Olivia Luccardi (Alice and Jules) in particular did an exceptional job. Lew Temple (Talbot) also did well. I didn’t actually see them wearing red shirts, but as it turns out the weaker actors of the group were eaten first. Hooray!
Sound quality (which you may have noticed is a particular pet peeve of mine) was excellent throughout and the score was well done. From what I could tell, Feral was full of practical effects and that always makes me happy. Not to say it’s a total bonanza of gore. It has it’s moments here and there, but handles them deftly. Never lingering too long on the goop and gross.
This review would not be complete without giving a tip o’ the hat to Levi Ashlyn and Mark Musashi. As stunt performers/actors they were responsible for bringing the Feral creatures to life and they did a great job. From their animalistic way of dashing around to their slightly inhuman ticks and movements, even from a distance you could instantly tell there was something definitely wrong about them. Go, #TeamCreature!
So, with this apparently very contentious film, count me as one of the folks who enjoyed Feral. Hey, it’s streaming on Amazon right now. Go check it out and then come back here and let me know if you think I’m a crazy person or not.