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FERAL (2018) review

June 1, 2018

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written by: Mark Young and Adam Frazier
produced by: Mark Young, Brett Kerr and John Landolfi
directed by: Mark Young
rated: unrated
runtime: 90 min.
U.S. release date: May 25, 2018 (digital/VOD)  & June 8-9, 2018 (midnight at Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)

 

I’ll start off by by saying the only thing “Feral” has going for it can be found in the makeup department and for a horror movie that’s simply not enough – unless it’s a student film, then it’s quite commendable. This movie is co-written and directed by Mark Young, who is not a student nor is this his directorial debut. It is filled with tired cliches of the genre and regenerated characters who are mostly portrayed in a wholly unmemorable manner. There may not be an original or good story in “Feral”, but I’ll give credit to the actor(s) who got made-up as the creepy crawly creatures here as they are the only element of the movie who are quite committed to giving it their all.

This is a movie about a group of college students, three couples to be exact, who take a weekend trip into the woods. Sound familiar? What could possibly go wrong in a horror flick with such a scenario? Oh stop, it’s different because they’re all white and they’re med students (one guy is made fun of for studying to be a urologist by a woman who is a passionate epidemiologist – at least that’s what I heard – it was hard to tell, to be honest, due to all the soft-spoken mumbling), but who’s checking off all the cliches anyway? They eventually wind up in an old cabin that has a full cellar. In that cellar is a dusty table with syringes and meds, near a bed frame with a musty old mattress. There’s also handcuffs tied to the top and bottom of the bed frames. Sounds like a great place to get away from it all, right? It also sounds like every horror film that has a cabin in the woods.

 

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The dimly-lit cellar is the location of the movie’s opening scene. This is where we shown a crazed and bloody woman tied to the aforementioned bed frame, as she writhes and screams. The camera tells us that there’s a gun-totting guy standing near her. We’re supposed to wonder why she is tied there and why she is screaming, but to be honest, opening a movie with a bound woman and an armed dude standing over her, ready to end it all, is not a very timely and therefore welcome sight. This scene is revisited later, but it doesn’t wash the bad taste. Plus, it would’ve been much more interesting if the roles were reversed. But, reversing roles or subverting expectations is the last thing on the minds of director Mark Young, who co-wrote “Feral” with Adam Frazier.

Back to those three couples. One of them is newly-formed lesbian couple, Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Jules (Olivia Luccardi) and there’s an unnecessarily big to-do made about that by the other two couples, mostly from the guys. Cuz, like, she was once into guys! Ugh. We learn this during a dull rundown over a nighttime campfire – apparently they’ve walked far enough in a nondescript location that doesn’t seem all that treacherous – which quickly becomes a blatant “getting to know the cast” sequence that becomes the equivalent cable-ready Ambien.

Seriously, I was nodding off ten minutes in and I wasn’t even tired. I had to will myself awake, similar to the approach used by the cast here to act. This is the kind of movie where you quickly hope the characters start to meet their expected unexpected deaths. Right away, none of the characters are absorbing or even vaguely interesting, just running off with annoying comments and cliched lines, so please kill them off.

It can’t be deliberate that the first person to get killed is Matt (George Finn), the aspiring urologist who just gave his girlfriend Brienne (Rachel Olmstead) a marriage in their tent and then excused himself to go urinate on a tree. Get it? You can bet that something “feral” killed poor Matt. It’s probably the same fake sound bite they heard in the distance around the campfire. One of the guys, I think it was Jesse (Brock Kelly), brushed it off as a wolf or a bear. That didn’t faze anyone? It sure would freak me out, knowing full well neither of those wild animals would knock on my tent.

Nobody hears nearby Matt screaming for his life as some beastly-looking bald “feral” creature disembowels him, literally digging through the guy like trying to find something it lost. Brienne gets out of the tent, not because she hears him, but because he’s taken too long to pee. With lantern in hand she goes to the exact spot where Matt is now one with the Earth (what are the chances?), where beastly is still going to town on her fiance. She screams. It scratches her. She screams. Finally, the other two couples come out to find out what all the commotion is about, yet no one completely freaks out or adamantly proclaims they must leave.

 

 

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Instead, Alice provides medical aid to wounded Brienne in her tent and everyone calls it a night. Really? How do you sleep after that, knowing something that attacked your friend is still out there? When too many questions pile up when you’re watching a movie, it becomes clear no questions were asked during the writing process. It also becomes obvious right away who will be the Final Girl on top and that’s never any fun. It’s too bad Taylor-Compton, who played Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” movies, is pretty bad here, because it would help to have someone we could root for in this movie. But, I suppose with uninteresting characters behaving with very little common sense, there should be no surprises when it’s clear there’s no effort made to subvert audience expectations.

The next morning, no one has packed their bags, in fact a new character is introduced which will conveniently keep the gang of medical students remaining in the woods. The bearded Talbot (Lew Temple, of “The Walking Dead” and the recent “The Endless”) appears out of nowhere and checks off all the requirements for a creepy dude “from these here parts”. Wearing a stocking cap and a flannel shirt, the mysterious middle-aged guy reluctantly admits that he has a cabin nearby. Of course, he dies. Eventually, we learn from Talbot that what is lurking out there has been infected with “a feral virus” and if you survive an attack, it’s only a matter of time before your hair falls out, your eyes go white and you start to go nuts with an appetite for human flesh.

This prospect produces much in-fighting amongst the kids. Alice is determine to reverse or save anyone infected. We, as an audience, know full well, that’s pointless. Nevertheless, there is arguing, Jesse gets his foot caught in a bear trap while ridiculing Jules for being a lesbian, and, well, it gets to the point where these feral creatures are the least of our concern. We start to wonder how fast can any of these characters die, so the “ferals” can be left alone in peace.

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard had fun with all the horror tropes that are played out here when they the writer and director (respectively) gave us the clever, great and nutso “The Cabin in the Woods” back in 2012, providing something wholly original and different while playing with audience expectations. Young and Frazier offer no misdirect or red herring in “Feral”, nor do they offer anything new to the genre. The only impressive aspect to this movie is the makeup on the creatures and the yoga masters who portray them. That’s it. The sound design is unimaginative and flat out odd – while characters are waiting things out in the basement, you can hear something akin to a breeze and water dripping, I just wanted to yell, “Quiet!” Something as little as that, added to the bad dialogue and boring characters, really makes you start to mentally list off all the other movies you should be watching.

It’s really easy to make a bad horror movie. Just include everything that’s been done before and choose a predominately bland cast to help check off all the boxes. “Feral” is an unmemorable addition to the genre and I’m surprised this didn’t just go straight to digital/VOD. It’s actually getting a coveted midnight slot at the Music Box Theatre this weekend and, for the life of me, I can’t understand why.

 

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RATING: *

 

 

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