Freaks of Nature (2015)


Sometimes a movie will come around that seems to have everything in it.  This is, on the surface, appealing, because even the most uptight cinephile still has that eight-year-old deep inside that wants to see Batman battle Dracula with the aid of cyberdolphins and Bruce Lee making a cameo appearance.  Unfortunately, the reality has always been, like with a child's first experiments with cooking, that throwing every ingredient into the pot rarely results in something as fantastic as it initially sounds. 

Thus we have a movie like Freaks of Nature.  Not satisfied with just combining teen angst with zombies like in Warm Bodies, the fictional town of Dillford, home of the Riblet, is also home to vampires.  The vamps, of course, are the cool kids and the rich families, while the humans are largely middle class and the zombies are used as cheap labor.  So, now we have teen angst and class division, as well as the Trump-like owner of the Riblet factory played by Denis Leary.

On top of that it is also full of cameos by "cool" comedians such as Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt and Keegan-Michael Key.  Then there is the main plot of the movie involving an alien invasion that leads into subplots about the importance of friendship and family and everyone getting along.  And, as a cherry on top, there is also a cameo by Werner Herzog - well, at least voicing one of the characters, but after everything else a visit by Herzog shouldn't be too much of a surprise.  Unfortunately, in a movie with all of this going for it, surprises are few and far between, and the whole brew just kind of fizzles.

Dag (Nicholas Braun) is a high school student in the town of Dillford.  He has a crush on a girl named Lorelei (Vanessa Hudgens) who seems more interested in him as a friend.  Meanwhile, a girl named Petra (Mackenzie Davis) gets talked into "going all the way" by her vampire boyfriend Milan (Ed Westwick), which for him means changing her into a vampire before moving on to the next girl.  Ned (Josh Fadem), the smartest kid at the school, becomes frustrated by his family's general ignoring of him in favor of his older brother Chaz Jr. (Chris Zylka) and decides to just become a zombie.  

The next day the aliens show up and start kidnaping the townsfolk who, to be fair, are already rioting and trying to murder each other.  Both the humans and the vampires blame the other for calling the aliens to try to wipe out their respective communities, while the zombies are unhappy about the lack of brains.  As things get worse Dag, Petra and Ned are forced to team up and figure out what the aliens want and how to get them to leave while also working through how they all grew apart as they got older.

On paper Oren Uziel's script probably looked brilliant, and Robbie Pickering, the guy behind the Mr. Robot television series, had enough cred to get a good supporting cast together.  And, honestly, the younger unknowns (some, like Mackenzie Davis, no longer such) are good in their roles.  Of course this is supposed to also be a comedy but, while a number of the jokes land, too many are on the stale side.  While the story doesn't drag, it's really not anything we haven't seen before, and the finale borrows more than a little from The World's End.  

This is the type of movie that should be self-aware simply because of the plot and not need to remind the audience of where all the clichés and such come from.  It also needs to go wildly over-the-top when everything starts, and the beginning of the movie is promising.  Unfortunately, for all the good effects on a low budget and some truly funny moments - mostly provided by Joan Cusack and Bob Odenkirk as Dag's parents as well Ian Roberts as Chaz Sr. - the movie takes few chances.  There are not a lot of scenes of outright gore, and what should have been a chance to make fun of gratuitous nudity in horror films fails by not being gratuitous in the nudity - something that could have been done because, as usual, most of the "teenagers" in the film were closer to 30 than 18.  

Instead, the movie sometimes stumbles over itself trying to prove how clever its concept is or just lets the story play out on autopilot.  It's a shame because the leads are likeable, and many of the b-list cameos work, but for a horror comedy Freaks of Nature seems too frightened to do what it needs to live up to its own concept. 

Freaks of Nature (2015)
Time: 92 minutes
Starring: Nicholas Braun, Mackenzie Davis, Josh Fadem, Vanessa Hudgens
Director: Robbie Pickering







 

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