Feral is better than ambien

I try to treat every film I watch fairly. To do this, I manage my expectations. If a film is billed as an erotic thriller, I don’t compare it to Citizen Kane. Instead, I ask how well it did what it set out to do.  If a film has a low budget, I don’t compare its FX to Avengers. I also look for something that makes the film worthwhile. Sometimes a movie isn’t very good, but there’s one thing in it that makes you glad you saw it. Think of Primal Fear, a terrible movie that deserves to exist because of an outstanding performance by a young Edward Norton.  Sometimes it’s top-notch make-up FX that I enjoy. Sometimes it’s an engaging subplot. Most movies have something. Feral has nothing.

You tend to expect any movie with a “name” actor in it to have a baseline level of competence. Feral fucks that expectation right up.  The plot is pretty simple. Three couples go on a camping trip in the middle of nowhere. One of them is attacked and killed by something. The others succumb to a sickness that turns them into wild zombie-like creatures one by one. That’s it. Further summary isn’t really warranted as nothing novel or interesting happens. Sure, then meet a man who lives in the woods and take refuge in his cabin, so that’s more plot, but by then we don’t really care. 

The attempts at character development are thin, and kind of cliché. There’s a romantic triangle that isn’t believable, mostly because the people involved seem less like actual humans and more like some novice screenwriter’s half remembered recollections of characters in other, better, movies.

The star is Scout Taylor Compton (who was good in Rob Zombie’s Halloween, and other films). Here she is wasted. The screenplay gives her no real character traits and nothing to do.  

The “characters” stumble about behaving almost entirely but not completely unlike humans.  They make stupid decision after stupid decision and eventually we start to forget which of them is which as they are all identical in their stupidity. The dumb is fractal. No matter how closely you look it is always the same amount of dumb in the same dull shapes.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about this film is the total failure to understand how establishing shots are meant to work. The establishing shot is a foundational part of film grammar.  Say you have a scene that takes place in an office.  You might start with a static shot of a big building , then cut to the office.  This grounds the location for the audience.  It helps create realism,  and to build a larger world. You only need to do this once. The next time we see that office set, the audience will remember that it was in the big building.

This film doesn't get that. Again and again we get the establishing shot of the same cabin before cutting to the action inside.  It's boring and amateurish.  It also causes a second problem,  which I call Chekhov's ax.

In each exterior shot of the cabin we see an ax. The first time it's no big deal, but as the litany of repeated shots wears on we start to think that maybe the movie is up to something
 Maybe that ax will be important.

The ax will never be important. 
Thy FX are bland. The music is flavorless. The trees at least look like real trees and watching this slog of a movie I started to feel badly for them. These trees did not deserve the indignity of being featured in this monument to wasted investor funds. Whoever paid for this movie should demand a refund.

Feral made me tired. I wanted to be angry that it had wasted my time, but honestly what would be the point.  Mostly I feel like I need a hot shower and a long nap. 

-Nathan Tyree