Creature Feature

Starfish

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After losing her best friend, Aubrey secludes herself in her friend’s apartment. She awakes the next day to discover the world as she knows it is coming to an end. People have disappeared and there are strange creatures lurking outside the door. Aubrey finds a mix tape made by her deceased friend with clues as to how to survive this strange new world, and perhaps even save it.

A.T. White brings a powerful story to the screen in his first feature-length film, Starfish. The focus of the plot is grief. Aubrey loses her friend and from that moment her life is changed forever. The film includes elements of a dramatic character study, a Lovecraftian apocalypse, and fantastic music. Each aspect is integral to the film. White takes the audience on a journey through Aubrey’s grief, going through each of the traditional five stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are emphasized by the end of the world happening all around Aubrey and the strange beings that have crossed into our world. Her complete isolation from the rest of the world allows the audience to focus on Aubrey as she goes on her emotional and sometimes dangerous journey in which reality bends, breaks, and unravels.

Music plays a vital role in her journey as well in the form of tapes hidden by her deceased friend. Each tape contains a song with an embedded signal that has something to do with what is happening to the world. This gives Aubrey a goal to work towards and a mystery to solve. It propels forward, forcing her to face her grief and things she has done that she feels guilty about. The tapes could even save Aubrey’s life. All of these elements combine in perfect symphony.

The plot alone is haunting, beautiful, and fascinating, but what makes it even more compelling is White’s inspiration for it. White has said that he lost a friend to cancer and experienced grief like what we see Aubrey go through. The film allowed him to visually work through that grief. What’s even more amazing is that White intends to donate all the money he makes from Starfish to Cancer Research. It shows the passion he has for both his film and the cause. That passion can also easily be seen in every last detail in the film’s plot, character, and music.

In a film that focuses entirely on one character, casting is vital. Virginia Gardner (Halloween, Runaways) stars as Aubrey. The pain, loss, and guilt Aubrey experiences is the catalyst for the entire film. Gardner truly dazzles in the role. She is able to grab the attention and the hearts of the audience and hold on tight. The way Gardner portrays Aubrey as she mourns is complicated, relatable, and incredibly raw. This performance alone makes me excited to see what Gardner does in the future.

The many artistic elements of Starfish also bring a lot to the film. The filmmakers used CGI to create the Lovecraftian creatures from another world, as well as the rips in our reality they traveled through. These effects are relatively subtle. The CGI works especially well with the various sets. The film takes place in a landscape that looks very remote and snowy, which offers a beautiful contrast with the effects. There is also a distinct lack of modern technology throughout the film. This allows for the film to exist in a space without a specific time and could have been made in the 80’s as easily as today. Of course, the music is probably the most important artistic element because of how engrained it is in the plot. The score was composed by none other than White himself and he selected the music for the soundtrack as well. Both the score and soundtrack are a focal point of the film and I found myself trying to find the soundtrack online as soon as I finished the film.

Starfish is a stunning and raw journey through the grieving process as the world ends. White beautifully uses his own experience to take the audience through the stages of grief. He also incorporates music and the collision of different worlds to convey the end of Aubrey’s world. It seems to be left up to the audience whether this is a literal or metaphorical apocalypse, but the story is haunting either way. The weight of the film is carried on Gardner’s capable shoulders as she portrays Aubrey as a complicated heroine.  Add the various visual and musical elements, and you have a must-watch film. If that isn’t enough to convince you to see Starfish, see it so you can support a great cause and have your sale go toward Cancer Research.

OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10

 

Dead Ant

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80’s metal band Sonic Grave is trying to make its big comeback. In a desperate attempt to write a brand new hit song, the band buys some special peyote called “the Sun” and heads out to Joshua Tree in hopes of getting inspired. There is just one catch to the drug: the band can do no harm to a living thing while on the Sun, otherwise there will be dire consequences. Of course, they do not heed the warning.

Writer and director Ron Carlson (All American Christmas Carol) shows he knows how to bring the rock and the laughs in Dead Ant. The film manages to successfully make fun of and pay homage to 80’s glam rock at the same time. These guys are washed up, but they can’t seem to accept it. They are so desperate to make a big comeback they resort to taking drugs in the middle of nowhere, hoping the psychedelic visions will lead to their next hit song. The band definitely fulfills the stereotype of a once famous glam rock band that is trying to relive the glory days; the outfits, the hair, the makeup, the drugs and alcohol use, the hook-ups. The addition of a horror element, in the form of ever-growing giant killer ants, adds to the humor of the film. There is a combination of mysticism with the “do no harm” condition of doing the special drug and creature feature as the band members are hunted down by giant ants. They start out on the small side, but as the film progresses the ants get bigger and bigger. Turning a creature that is generally looked at as small and harmless and turning it into a massive killing machine is a nice comedic touch.

A lot of what makes this film so enjoyable is the performances. Each actor gives a memorable performance in their own way and they all are able to make the audience laugh. One of my favorite performances comes from Jake Busey (The Frighteners, Starship Troopers) as the lead singer, Merrick. Merrick looks a lot like a Bret Michaels impersonator, and he is all about the rock and roll lifestyle. Busey truly commits to the role and ends up delivering some of the most hilarious lines. The band’s guitarist, Pager, is played by Rhys Coiro (Entourage, Straw Dogs). Pager is the most desperate to regain fame, and that leads to some very funny hijinks as music remains the focus even as the ants are on the attack. One of my favorite performances comes from Leisha Hailey (Fertile Ground, The L Word) as the band’s drummer, Stevie. She comes across as the most grounded and the most intelligent of the group. Stevie doesn’t take shit from anyone and Hailey brings some sass to the character. Honorable mention goes to Michael Horse (Twin Peaks), Danny Woodbury (Mirror Mirror), Sean Astin (The Goonies), and Tom Arnold (True Lies).

There are definitely some low-budget style effects in Dead Ant, but they don’t detract from the film at all. If anything they might add a bit of charm to the indie B-movie plot. The ants are all created with CGI. The filmmakers had an understandably low budget to create these big bugs, but the CGI looks no better or worse than many of the films shown on the Syfy Channel. The practical effects are slightly less successful. Although they are used sparingly, there is one effect in the climax of the film that is very cheesy looking. This may have been an intentional choice as the scene is also very comical, but it is hard not to cringe at it. When it comes to the band members, the costume design is spot on for what you would imagine a glam metal band would wear. Each actor also wears a wig to enhance the look of their characters. Although, the wig worn by Astin is absolutely atrocious and is very distracting every time he is on screen.

Dead Ant is a somewhat cheesy, but delightfully funny film that shows a has-been band pitted against giant killer ants. Carlson does a great job of showing his love for 80’s glam metal, while also making fun of the band members as they attempt to make their comeback. He is great at conveying that duality, the same way he is able to combine comedy and horror into one film. The performances are surprisingly entertaining and the big name actors who appear are even more surprising. The effects aren’t particularly amazing, but they are good enough to keep me entertained. Dead Ant is definitely campy and satirical, resulting in a fun popcorn flick that captures the spirit of 80’s horror/music in a modern day film.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

Between the Trees

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Dealing with the stress of a failing marriage, Steve arranges a getaway with his three best friends. Together they rent a remote cabin in the hopes of having a nice quiet hunting trip. It doesn’t take long for these friends to realize they are not alone in those woods. With no cell service and nothing but miles of forest around them, it will be a fight for survival. Only the fittest will escape with their lives.

Directed by Brad Douglas (Besetment) and written by first-time screenwriter Sam Klarreich, Between the Trees is a horror film that combines different subgenres. On the one hand the film is a suspenseful thriller as it follows Steve. He appears to be obsessed with his marriage falling apart and makes a point of asking his two married friends how their marriages are, while also telling them about his own failing marriage. Steve is clearly unstable, and the isolation only seems to exacerbate his deteriorating state of mind. On the other hand, this film is a creature feature. There is something else in the woods with the friends. They kill the offspring of the creature in self-defense, and then the creature tries to hunt them down one by one.

While individually these two premises could be great, and there are some areas of overlap that are quite interesting, they ultimately don’t fit together very well. With how the plot is revealed, it seems that the filmmakers were trying to use the creature aspect as a way to emphasize the tension between the four friends. Instead, the film comes across as two entirely different films, both in content and tone, rammed together like two puzzle pieces that don’t fit. Between the Trees is only an hour and 14 minutes long, but even with that short run time it feels too long. It would have worked so much better as two separate short films. At times the film becomes especially convoluted, mostly when it focuses on the creature aspect. It is the least developed subplot, and as a result viewers will likely be left wondering what this thing is supposed to be, among other questions.

Each performance in Between the Trees is fine, but the characters are all very one-note and lack any depth. Greg James (Wild) plays Steve. The character is written in such a way that leaves little room for James to bring a powerful performance. Steve is quiet, brooding, and only really cares to talk about his marriage. James tries his hardest to push beyond the character created for him, and has a few moments where he is able to show some real intensity, but the writing holds him back. This is a pattern with all the characters. Jonny Lee (Hacked) plays the drunken lady’s man, Mack. Again, Lee’s performance is fine, but there isn’t much more to the character than what I just described. Dan Kyle (Combat Report) portrays manly-man Dave. Dave is the big, tough guy who is the most capable hunter and woodsman of the group. Kyle manages to bring the slightest bit of depth to this character in the way he talks about his wife, albeit very briefly. Finally there is Michael Draper (The Competition) as Josh. This character is another stereotype; he is the most sensitive of the group, loves his wife, and dresses a bit too nicely for a weekend in a cabin so of course that means he is often called “gay” by the unsavory locals. Draper’s performance often goes into the realm of caricature, which doesn’t fit well with the rest of the film, but he at least is able to give us a few surprises with his character.

Normally creature design and practical effects are aspects of a horror film I look forward to most, but they are not great selling points of this film. Before we even see the creatures they are described in terms audiences are familiar with such as “Bigfoot” and “Sasquatch.” These words automatically conjure up visions of large, hairy ape-like beasts roaming the forests. When you finally see the creatures in Between the Trees, you get almost the exact opposite. The adult creature is definitely tall, but other than that these beings are hairless, have pale greyish skin, use bows and arrows, and wear human clothing. It comes across as though very little effort was put into the creature design, and the execution looks like a rubber Halloween mask. They are simply too human and it leaves a lot of lingering questions in the end about how these things could exist without the locals knowing about them.

Between the Trees can’t seem to decide what kind of film it wants to be. It tries very hard to marry two different stories into one plot, but it results in a confusing jumble. There are too many unanswered questions, especially when it comes to the creatures in the film. The archetypes for the four characters are fairly bland and leave little room for the actors to bring any tension or dimension to their performances. Most of the issues with the film can be chalked up to how the film was written and the unfortunate creature design. I appreciate the attempt at doing something different, but as a whole it is not a film I would recommend.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10

Lifechanger

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A shapeshifter has the ability to transform into another person, but only at the expense of that person’s life. After existing in different forms for decades, the bodies he takes over are decaying at a much more rapid rate. This shapeshifter’s time is running out. Yet he goes through body after body in an attempt to reconnect with the woman he loves.

Writer and director Justin McConnell (Broken Mile, Collapsed) brings audiences an interesting take on shapeshifters, love, and morality in Lifechanger. There have been films in the past about shapeshifters and things that need to take over the body/life of another human in order to survive. There are aspects of this plot that help to differentiate it from those other films. One way is that the plot is told from the point of view of the shapeshifter, giving us a more empathetic look into the mind and life of this being. The shapeshifter has to kill in order to live, and there is a moral question nagging at the audience as to whether or not he should continue living. Another way this film is different is that the shapeshifting itself isn’t the focus of the story. It does play a very important role, but the film is more about the shapeshifter’s loneliness and desire to be with the one he loves. This plays into the morality issue as well. Is what he does okay because he is doing it for love?

In the third act the film takes a bit of a turn. Without giving too many details, this act changes your perspective of the shapeshifter a bit and makes the audience realize his motives might not be quite what we are lead to believe. I have mixed feelings about how the final moments of this film plays out. Part of me loves it because the end left me with a feeling similar to how the end of The Mist left me. Whether you enjoyed the end of that film or not, you have to admit it packed quite a punch that stuck with you long after the film ended, and Lifechanger ends with a similar impact. It won’t appeal to all viewers, but it is at least thought-provoking. On the other hand, I found the last half of the film, including the final act, almost romanticizes stalking and abusive relationships. I don’t think this was intentional on the part of the filmmakers, but it stands out in my mind when I think about some of the shapeshifter’s actions throughout the film.

Considering how many different actors played the shapeshifter in Lifechanger, there are a number of great performances in this film. While each actor did a great job as the shapeshifter, the standout performances come from Rachel VanDuzer  in her first feature film and Jack Foley (Fugue). We spend the most time with the shapeshifter in these bodies, and both VanDuzer and Foley portray the character in a way that is a combination of cold, lonely, loving, and frightening. The character is able to take on the memories of its victims when he transforms so the portrayals are meant to be a mix of who the person was and who the shapeshifter is. My one qualm is that I wish there had been some personality trait or tick that made a more obvious connection between all the actors playing the shapeshifter. There is an internal voice the audience hears, the love he feels for a woman, and a marble we see him play with in a few scenes. While those help to connected the different actors, they feel external or separate. Another great performance comes from Lora Burke (Poor Agnes) as the love interest, Julia. Burke portrays Julia in a way that she comes across as broken yet extremely personable. She is someone who could become a best friend overnight. It makes it easy to see why the shapeshifter fell in love with her.

There are many interesting visuals throughout the film. The opening sequence has some gorgeous cinematography. There are many scenes shot beautifully, but the opening stands out the most. The filmmakers opted to use primarily practical effects. This works very well and gives the film a timeless look. The effects themselves are used to create the bodies of the shapeshifter’s victims. They go through a bizarre transformation that is somewhat grotesque, but it is also quite eye-catching. The cinematography and the effects work well together in a way that shows the filmmakers took care to make sure the film had quite a bit of visual interest. They also help set the bleak tone of the film.

Lifechanger is a film that holds nothing back as it takes the audience on an unexpected journey with a shapeshifter. The stunning cinematography and the practical effects help to build the dreary reality of a very unique character. Compelling performances from an array of actors allow the audience to understand the shapeshifter on a more human level with an equally compelling performance from Burke as the love interest. Lifechanger has a fascinating plot with a few rough patches, but the only aspect that truly bothers me is the way stalking is used in the film. An element of the unknown will leave some things unanswered in a way that works well. This is a thought-provoking film that is definitely worth checking out.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

Slay Belles

slay belles

On Christmas Eve three friends decide to explore an abandoned holiday theme park for their online adventure show. Their fun is interrupted by a large, murderous, hairy beast known as Krampus. As the three women try to hide, they come across a man who claims to be the real Santa Claus. It’s up to these friends, Santa Claus, and a park ranger to defeat Krampus to save Christmas and the world.

Slay Belles is by co-writers Jessica Luhrssen and SpookyDan Walker, with Walker also directing the film. Both have worked on films in the past in other capacities, but this is the first feature film either has headed. The duo worked to create a campy, fun, low-budget holiday horror comedy mash-up. This film will likely appeal to many horror fans and individuals who frequent conventions. Two of the three leads are women who dress up in cosplay and go on adventures for their website and fans. This is what leads them to the abandoned holiday theme park on Christmas Eve. The characters feel like real people because they fit in so well with geek culture.

Another interesting and fun aspect of the plot is the new Christmas mythology it creates. Everyone knows Santa Claus, and by now, most people (or at least most horror fans), know Krampus as well. Slay Belles gives audiences a new image of what Santa is up to in this day and age. It paints a unique picture of Santa not as the holly jolly fat old man we know and love, but instead he is a bit of an eccentric hermit who looks like he could be part of a biker gang. It gives audiences something they haven’t seen before. The updated mythology for both Santa and Krampus lead to some hilarious and bloody shenanigans. There are even a few unexpected twists sprinkled throughout.

The film has an array of performances ranging from hilarious to not so great. Luckily, the three leading ladies of Slay Belles all gives highly entertaining performances.  Kristina Klebe (Tales of Halloween) stars as Alexi. She’s the hardworking, more practical friend in the group and the only one not technically part of the “Adventure Girls.” Despite the relative cheesiness of the film, Klebe delivers a solid performance. Susan Slaughter (Ouija House), a well-known paranormal investigator, plays the sassy Dahlia. Slaughter is part of the horror culture so her portrayal of Dahlia feels very authentic. Hannah Wagner (The Devil’s Carnival) plays Sadie, who is a bit ditzy and very spunky. The fact that Wagner has experience as a YouTube personality likely helped her to play Sadie in an entertaining yet realistic way. The trio not only act well individually, but their dynamics work great together as well. Of course, what would a Christmas horror film be without Santa Clause? I want to give a very special shoutout to Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show) for giving audiences one of the most unique portrayals of Santa I’ve ever seen.

A holiday B-horror film would be nothing without some memorable effects. For the most part, the film utilizes practical effects to create Krampus (as well as some delightful blood and gore). The Krampus makeup does a great job of creating the more classic look. He’s a hairy, horned, cloven-foot beast that wants to attack all the naughty children of the world. The overall look of Krampus is very well done, although there are a couple spots where it is obviously a hairless human arm that is simply painted. The most shocking aspect of the Krampus makeup design is the giant realistic penis. I had to rewind to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. While this practical effect would be over the top in other films, it fits in well with the overall theme of Slay Belles. One artistic aspect that detracts a bit from the film is that some of the climactic night scenes are too dark. It is one of the most exciting parts of the film, but it’s very difficult to see what’s going on.

Slay Belles isn’t the best holiday horror film, but it is still a riotous good time. The film boasts one of the more fun and original Santa and Krampus mythologies I’ve seen. All three leading ladies (and Bostwick) deliver strong performances, but there are other smaller characters who aren’t quite as good. The blood, guts, and Krampus practical effects bring thrills and laughs, although at times these effects also highlight the film’s small budget. Those looking for a more “refined” holiday horror film will likely want to steer clear of this film, but fans who enjoy campy B-horror movies will be delighted by Slay Belles.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

Overlord

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D-Day approaches. It is up to a band of American soldiers to infiltrate a remote French village. In this village, the Nazis have set up a communications satellite that must be destroyed before the American planes reach France. As the remaining soldiers make their way into the village, they soon realize the Nazis are up to something more sinister than they could ever have imagined.

Overlord, directed by Julius Avery (Son of a Gun) and written by Billy Ray (The Hunger Games) and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant), certainly packs a punch. The opening sequence is arguably the strongest part of the film, immediately immersing the audience in WWII as the American soldiers fly into France, preparing to parachute to their objective. This scene quickly establishes characters in a claustrophobic setting, then immediately tosses these characters into chaos. Once the surviving soldiers make it to the small French town, the film takes a more quiet, reserved approach as the men try to keep their presence hidden from the Nazis. The filmmakers do an amazing job of slowly revealing what the Nazi’s are doing, bit by bit, leading up to the action-packed climax.

The Nazi regime is known for performing experiments that border the line of being supernatural. What is happening in Overlord gives the audience a glimpse into what those experiments might have been. The gruesome results of what the Nazis do in the film add frightening and gory thrills to the film. The plot hints at why the Nazi’s chose this location, as well as how they were able to achieve creating these monsters, but not fully. I appreciate the filmmakers not going into the realm of over-explanation, but I am still curious to know just a little bit more about how the Nazis created the monsters.

The entire cast delivers absolutely fantastic performances throughout the film. Jovan Adepo (Fences, mother!) shines as Boyce, the reluctant soldier with a heart of gold. Adepo conveys Boyce’s internal struggle of doing what he has to as a soldier vs. what he believes is the right thing to do in a very compelling way. Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street, Table 19) gives audiences a surprising performance as Ford, the man in charge of the mission. Most people are used to Russell in more comedic roles, but his performance in this film proves he can handle the grittier roles as well. The dynamic between these two characters is also wonderful to watch. There is tension, as they have different goals, but there is also a mutual sense of respect that can’t be ignored. I could write an entire review just about the acting, but to save time I will give honorable mention to the rest of the stunning cast including Mathilde Ollivier (The Misfortunes of François Jane), Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones), John Magaro (My Soul to Take), Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Jacob Anderson (Game of Thrones).

For an action packed war horror film, Overlord is surprisingly beautiful to watch. The first act has particularly beautiful cinematography. From the time the film begins all the way until the end credits, audiences get a feast for the eyes. On top of the amazing cinematography, the film also boasts some stunning special effects. With a film like this where the Nazis’ creations are a focal point, the effects have to be well done. The effects team seamlessly blends practical and CGI effects to the point where it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The results are some grotesque and spectacular monsters that bring terror to the silver screen.

Overlord packs monstrous frights into a claustrophobic WWII setting to deliver a thrill ride audiences won’t soon forget. This is the kind of film that easily could have been a dramatic war film, and the creature element only added to the excitement and the stunning visuals throughout the film. The amazing performances from the entire cast, especially from Adepo and Russell, drive the emotional core to balance out the horrific events. I only wish the filmmakers had given a bit more information into how the creatures are created by the Nazis in the film, but it’s not enough to take away from the rest of the compelling plot. Between these performances, the special effects, and the cinematography, it’s impossible not to enjoy this film. It’s a film I highly recommend horror fans take the time to see on the big screen.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

 

Feral

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A group of medical school students venture into the woods for a camping trip. On the first night they are attacked by something. Once bitten, they become infected with a strange disease and it’s changing them into dangerous creatures. The students will have to use their medical knowledge and whatever survival skills they have to escape with their lives.

This tale of survival is directed by Mark H. Young (Tooth and Nail, Wicked Blood) and written by both Young and first-time screenwriter Adam Frazier. On the surface, the plot will seem very familiar. A group of college kids going into the woods and then being terrorized by some unknown creature is a concept that has been done time and time again. There are some thrilling and frightening moments mixed in with some more predictable ones (such as the obvious foreshadowing of who the first victims will be). The filmmakers use two methods to try to make Feral stand apart; the leading couple is a lesbian couple, and instead of just a monster in the woods there is a “feral virus.”

When it comes to having a prominent lesbian couple, the film has some high and low points. First and foremost is that the couple doesn’t fall into the typical stereotypes commonly found in film. There isn’t one woman that is more “butch” and one that is more “femme,” they are not man-hating, and their sexual orientation isn’t all they talk about or what defines them. In this way, the couple is very well developed compared to other films. The biggest drawback is the fact that they are two women in a relationship was brought up to much by other other characters, putting it in the spotlight and focusing a lot of the non-monster drama on that relationship and what others thought of it.

The virus itself is very interesting. Calling it a “feral” virus implies it might be some kind of rabies-like virus that infects the host and makes them hyper-violent. This is somewhat true in the film, but the virus also kills the host then brings them back to life as a bloodthirsty creature. There are even physical changes such as hair loss, yellow eyes, pale skin, elongated ears, and razor sharp teeth and claws. It honestly comes across as very muddled, like it is a rabies virus that turns the victims into zombie-vampire monsters. The origin of the virus is also underdeveloped. We learn that some creature in the woods bit a man, and that is supposedly how it all started. This opens up so many questions. What was the creature? Why do humans seem to be the only ones affected? Why hasn’t the virus reached outside the forest? It is good to leave some mystery for viewers, but this origin is simply too vague. Unfortunately, by trying to create something new and original, instead audiences will get something that is more confusing than anything else.

The origin of the creatures may be a bit fuzzy, but the creature design itself is pretty creepy. The makeup design does a great job of making each infected individual look similar, showing how the virus physically changes a person in the same way. The overall look reminds me of a vampire, but much more wild and ferocious than one would normally expect. The first time a creature is shown on screen is probably the most frightening part of the entire film. You can just barely make it out in the darkness as it stares down its victim. By the time you get a good look at the creature, it’s too late. There is also a healthy amount of blood and gore in the film. They do a great job of showing the attack wounds and how those eventually translate to an infected creature.

This film has some great actors who have made a name for themselves in the horror industry. Scout Taylor-Compton (Halloween, Cynthia) plays the main character, Alice. What makes Taylor-Compton’s performance stand out is how natural she portrays Alice. She is the most comfortable in the woods and remains cool under the most stressful circumstances, taking a natural leadership role in the group without any unnecessary bravado. She also has fantastic on-screen chemistry with Olivia Luccardi (It Follows, Chanel Zero: Butcher’s Block), who plays Jules. She stands out because Jules is the only one not part of the original group of friends. She is really only there because of her relationship with Alice. Luccardi portrays Jules as the outsider of the group, which makes her attempts to step up and be strong even more compelling. The most surprising performance of the film is Lew Temple (The Devil’s Rejects, 31) as Talbot. The character is interesting because Talbot functions as the harbinger archetype commonly found in horror films, but he is developed even further into a main character. Temple does a great job of making Talbot a strange mixture of sympathetic and ominous, which is not easy to achieve. The film has an overall well-rounded cast who know how to bring intensity to their performances.

Feral brings excitement and terror to the “monster in the woods” subgenre of horror. It successfully brings some elements to the plot that make it stand out from other similar films, such as including LGBTQ characters and changing up the familiar harbinger trope. There are also some standout performances from horror actors fans know and love, and creepy creature design that will make you not want to go into the woods. Where the film falls short is in the virus that creates the frightening creature. The underdeveloped background almost takes away from the fear of the virus and what it does because it simply doesn’t make sense. The film is entertaining enough, but it will likely be forgotten by the end of the year.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10