Review: STRANGE NATURE (2018)

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Frogs aren’t exactly the first creature that comes to mind when you think of horror films. Apart from a pair of cult favorites FROGS and HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN they’re not well represented on the screen. Now STRANGE NATURE, the debut feature from effects man turned director James Ojala (SAINT BERNARD), is giving them another shot at stardom

Kim (Lisa Sheridan), and her young son, Brody (Jonah Beres STEPHANIE), move in with Kim’s estranged father Chuck (Bruce Bohne DAWN OF THE DEAD, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER) out of a combination of necessity and to help him cope with liver cancer. But the peaceful, rural charm of the area is deceiving. Mutated frogs are turning up in the waters around the town, and there have been a few people gone missing in the area.

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Suspicion for the mutations falls on the local pesticide plant. But Mayor Paulson (Stephen Tobolowsky SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, LONERS) doesn’t want to hear it. Sam (John Hennigan MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT, DAVE MADE A MAZE) and his buddies who work at the plant are openly hostile to the idea. But the mutations move up the food chain, to dogs, then humans. Then horribly mutilated bodies, one of them belonging to Tiffany Shepis (KILLER KATE, VICTOR CROWLEY),  turn up. It’s obvious something is very wrong.

Mixing equal parts mystery thriller and creature feature, STRANGE NATURE gives a few new twists to what could have been a very familiar story. The plot throws a lot of emphasis on the human element, once again reminding us that humans may be the worst monsters of all.

Which is not to say the film lacks effects or monster action. The film was written and directed by a special effects whiz after all. Possibly by design, or possibly due to budget the effects are used to punctuate the plot, not drive it. Which is a nice change from what often happens in a case like this, where the effects end up dominating the plot. Ojala finds the right balance between the two and it pays off nicely.

This is also the first time I can remember seeing former WWE superstar Hennigan playing a villain. Stepping away from the action hero roles and taking the odd bad guy part is probably a good career move. His character doesn’t have much depth but he does a good job of being intimidating and doing some pretty horrible shit.

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STRANGE NATURE isn’t a game changer, but it is different enough to be worth seeing. STRANGE NATURE hits theaters (L.A with other cities to follow) from Sep 22.

Jim Morazzini

Movie buff, gym rat and crazy cat guy

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