Freaks of Nature

FON1

When aliens show up and begin kidnapping the humans, zombies, and vampires of Dillford, three former friends must set aside their differences in order to combat them or watch as their town burns to the ground.

I consider myself a pretty open minded zombie, you kind of have to be when you’re among the living dead, but I have to say, I think aliens abducting people here on Earth is bunk. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in life existing elsewhere in the universe, anything is possible and space is a big place, but I don’t think they’re coming here to kidnap the living. Why would anyone want to kidnap the living when zombies are a thing? That’s not just me being arrogant about the obvious superiority of the undead either, well, maybe a little, it just makes sense. Why, when zombies are a thing, would any extraterrestrial want to kidnap normal, everyday humans? That’s be like going to a buffet and just eating the meatloaf, and since no zombie anywhere has ever claimed to have been abducted by aliens, I’m left to believe they aren’t actually coming here and kidnapping anyone. I mean, yeah, there’s Crazy Jim, but he also thinks the Matrix is a documentary, the Loch Ness Monster is a lost cat, and humanity collectively made up Antarctica for shits and giggles. We don’t tend to take him too seriously. The point is, if aliens were really flying across the galaxy, using their advanced tech (which somehow doesn’t hide them from cheap cameras) to shove probes up people’s butthole, then damn it, zombies would be getting probes shoved up their asses too. Wait a minute…why am I upset about being ignored by aliens again?

Our film takes place in the town of Dillford, a town where humans, vampires, and zombies live and work together while doing their very best to tolerate one another. Enter high schooler Dag, a teen determined to win the affections of his crush, gain a spot on the school baseball team, and avoid being eaten by hungry zombies and asshole vampires. Dag isn’t the only one dealing with a difficult time though, two of his old friends, Petra and Ned, are having their own troubles with wampire (a wannabe vampire) Petra trying desperately to appease her vampire boyfriend, and nerdy Ned just doing his best not to get beat up on a day to day basis. Things begin to take a drastic change for all three when Dag starts putting more effort into winning his love interest, Petra lets her blood sucking boyfriend turn her into a vampire, and Ned, falling into a deep sadness, lets himself be bitten by a zombie if only so he no longer has to feel anything. As the trio deal with their newfound situations, a massive spaceship parks itself above the city, sending Dillford into a panic as the visitors do little more than hover ominously. Tensions build as each race blames the others for the alien presence and before long, chaos erupts as human, vampire, and zombie begin to brawl in the streets, covering the town in blood and causing the aliens to finally make a move, said move being to send in ground troops that promptly begin to space gun everyone they come across. In the aftermath of this devastation, the three former friends, now each a different representative of the town’s unusual demographics, find themselves reunited and trying not to kill and/or eat each other. Their one hope remains in the ever intelligent Ned, but there’s a problem, the only way a zombie regains his faculties is by starving himself of brains, and if years of zombie cinema have taught us anything, this won’t be an easy task.

FON2

{The Three Musketeers be damned}

I love a comedic horror flick that manages to balance itself in such a way that that the humor doesn’t distract from the fact that you’re watching a horror movie. We’ve all seen horror films that try so hard to be funny, that focus on the humor at the expense of the horror, you feel like you’re watching a slapstick comedy, and it ruins the entire viewing experience. What I love even more is when they not only manage to keep the necessary balance between comedy and horror, they also slip in a little message without becoming a heavy handed morality tale, something I’ve seen happen far too often with movies that put so much emphasis on their message, the humor gets left in the backseat, a passenger you forget is there in the first place. It’s incredibly difficult considering the amount of factors you have to balance out, the comedy versus the horror, the horror versus the humor, and the comedy versus any messages the filmmakers want to include. Go too far one way or another and you run the risk of throwing the balance off. Thankfully, Freaks of Nature, gets this balance down perfectly with a horror flick that’s funny without being silly and has a decent message about working together despite our differences. Sure, that’s the main plot point to fifty percent of the movies I’ve seen in my life, two or three very different people forced to work together for a common goal, but it’s handled a bit different here in that what I’m referencing has nothing to do with Dag, Petra, and Ned having to work together, but the whole town.

FON8

{Cardio must be very important in Dillford}

The filmmakers put a lot of effort and detail into creating the town of Dillford; so much so that Dillford comes across as a very real town, this despite the fact that it’s a place where humans, vampires, and zombies are forced to live and work together. There are newspapers for each group, places specifically designated for each race, products with a particular aim towards one of the three town species (Spam-like cans full of brains for zombies, little Capri Sun packs of blood for vampires), and each of the town’s residential creature types get fully fleshed out. The zombies are used as cheap labor and, much like most instances of employers seeking out cheap labor, are often abused and mistreated (someone once tried to unionize them and was blacklisted for their efforts). They live in their own segregated part of town, walled off from the rest of the city, where they’ve created their own culture and community. If they step outside of their community, they are forced to wear control collars that keep them passive. You’d think that might be necessary, but it’s not. They are shown to be able to control themselves when they’re around the living; the collars are solely there for the sake of those that fear them. Then there are the vampires who are mostly arrogant assholes that spend much of their time bullying those they see as weaker than them, which basically amounts to anyone who isn’t a vampire. Though they’re much stronger and faster than either of the other two groups, they still choose to segregate themselves over a fear of what could happen to them. The humans are more or less like humans in the real world, only instead of the everyday fears we have now, they have to worry about having their throats ripped out or their brains digested. The keyword in all of this is fear. Each of the three races not only doesn’t trust either of the other two, they actively fear them, unnecessarily so, and it’s this fear that divides them. Understand, they’ve proven time and time again that they are perfectly capable of working together, but instead of setting their problems aside for the greater good, their fear and distrust causes a slow mounting tension, a tension that finally burst when the aliens arrive over the skies of Dillford. Much as people in the world today allow their judgements, preconceptions, and prejudices to divide them to such a great extent that we allow easily preventable problems to multiply and worsen, the people of Dillford are so focused on their differences, they lose all sight of what’s important and are nearly wiped out because of it, when all they had to do was come to together for their salvation. I’d say it’s a pretty apt description of the world today.

FON7

{When this is happening in your backyard is not the time to decide on a riot}

Pretty heavy right? Well, then it’s a good thing the movie’s comedy offsets the more serious undertones of Freaks of Nature. I’ve already mentioned how great they managed to balance the horror and the humor, and how that balance carried over into the tight rope act between the film’s message and the film’s comedy, but it should be stated just how funny Freaks of Nature can be. Much of the comedy comes from the hilarious dialogue (Dag’s parents, played by Bob Odenkirk and Joan Cusack, giving him the sex talk might be one of the funniest things I’ve seen), but there are multiple gags spaced throughout the film as well. Little things like coffee pots being used to warm up blood in the teacher’s lounge (blood for the vampire teachers sitting next to the coffee for the human teachers), the drug like effects of brains on zombies (eating brains kind of gets them high), and the various articles in newspapers around town (the zombie one just usually says brains over and over again). These gags along with the dialogue make up the bulk of the film’s humor, but it’s the actors that form the heart. I liked the main trio of Dag (Nicholas Braun, whom I only remembered as that glow in the dark kid from Sky High), Petra (Mackenzie Davis), and Ned (Josh Fadem) well enough, but they end up a little overshadowed by some of the movie’s comedy talents. Patton Oswalt plays a paranoid basement dweller, Cheap Thrills’ Pat Healy is a zombified priest that can’t figure out what he’s supposed to do, Ian Roberts does a beyond hilarious performance as Ned’s car salesman father, Keegan-Michael Key is a vampire teacher who is fed up with his kids, and Denis Leary plays an asshole, so basically he plays Denis Leary. These actors do a phenomenal job, and that’s the movie’s only real problem, they do so well they end up overshadowing the main actors. These titans of comedy don’t have much of a part, yet I found myself wishing I could see more of them instead of Dag, Petra, and Ned. They were just so funny, and most of the film’s best moments involve them, so I was more interested in what they were doing while the town was saved than I was with those that were actually trying to save the town. Again, it’s not that any of the main actors are bad, it’s just that the minor ones do such a great job that you care more about them.

FON6

{When you’re Patton Oswalt, five minutes of your presence is enough to elevate anything you participate in}

Because of how much I enjoyed the movie despite its one flaw, let’s go out on a positive. The last thing I want to touch on are the effects. In a word, they’re excellent. Zombies are in various states of decay, vampires look savage and animalistic without looking cheesy, and the gore is plentiful. It all looks amazing, with perfect makeup and great examples of what can be done with practical effects. The only thing I didn’t understand was how when one of the trio, either Dag, Petra, or Ned, got blood all over them in one scene, they were rather clean in the next. When a vampire dies in Freaks of Nature, they explode in a shower of blood and liquefied vamp parts, much of which ends up all over whoever did the killing, yet when said person is shown only a short while later, they are clean. For instance, and this happens at least three times that I caught, Dag stakes a vamp and ends up covered in blood, to the point his entire shirt is dripping red, but in only the very next scene, his shirt looks like he might have just fell in the dirt and he doesn’t have a trace of the gore that should be covering his face. Wait, didn’t I say I was going to go out on a positive? Okay, well, even though I was annoyed by the fact that they didn’t pay as much attention as they should have to a pretty major detail, everything looked so amazing when it came to the gore and makeup that I was actually able to forgive something I might have otherwise screamed incessantly about. That’s pretty positive right?

{And here’s an asshole vampire, I don’t think I’m doing this right}

I highly recommend giving Freaks of Nature a watch if you come across it. Scratch that. Don’t wait till it comes across you, go seek it out. It’s got a little something for everyone.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Robbie Pickering (Natural Selection)

Starring: Nicholas Braun (Sky High, Red State), Mackenzie Davis (Bad Turn Worse, The Martian), and Josh Fadem (Better Call Saul, Amigo Undead)

Written By: Oren Uziel (Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, 22 Jump Street)

Released By: Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment

Release Year: 2015

Release Type: Limited Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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