Sunday, November 8, 2015

Freaks of Nature

Why did I pay to watch this movie, you might ask? Well, it was Halloween weekend and I wanted to see some new horror films instead of being a fuddy-duddy and watch my old standbys for the fifth year in a row. So I made a real effort to get out there and see some new shit. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was one of them (and was a ton of flawed fun), but what exactly was available in multiplexes that wasn’t another pointless Paranormal Activity sequel or PG-13 “boo”-athon? Thankfully Halloween 2015 saw a number of lower budget horror comedies receive a limited theatrical release, so I jumped at seeing them opening night before they headed to VOD. 

The first was Freaks of Nature.
In the world in which the movie takes place, humans co-exist peacefully with vampires and zombies. The small suburb of Dillford begins to see the first signs of that peace beginning to crumble away. On the night of an uprising against the humans, a young female vampire (Mackenzie Davie) and a newly undead zombie (Josh Fadem) team up with a teenage human (Nicholas Braun) to stop an alien invasion that threatens their small town.

I have to admit that the mash-up of all these horror archetypes really intrigued me, which is why I wanted to see this flick in the first place. The set-up was fun and it featured a nice cast of recognizable actors (Denis Leary, Vanessa Hudgens, Keegan-Michael Key, Bob Odenkirk, Joan Cusack, Mae Whitman and Patton Oswalt) alongside some newer talent I wasn’t familiar with.

But that’s where the positives end. This flick is a mess from start to finish.
For starters the writing is horrible. Not one of the main characters are presented in a way that makes them relatable or even slightly likable. I honestly couldn’t stand anyone in any way shape or form. Every character is a douchebag in one way or another and do stupid things just to do them and nothing more.

Here’s an example - Why did Fadem’s Ned randomly decide to become a zombie? He gets into a fight with his parents over his favored brother’s fate as a baseball player and (in a nutshell) says, “Hey, zombie girl who was randomly nice to me in school today… make me one of you.” Why? Because if he was not a zombie the movie would have been over too soon, that’s why. Ned solves all the problems the main characters are faced with due to his being the smartest kid in school, but now that he’s a zombie he becomes stupid whenever he eats brains (the zombies here retain their intelligence and ability to speak as long as they don’t eat brains). So if there is a pickle the trio finds themselves in they turn to Ned for the answers and, “oh shit, Ned ate brains again”, and they have to wait for their effects to wear off. It’s infuriating and frustrating to watch this go down time and time again. I thought to myself, “just kill Ned and get it over with already”, but we all know that wouldn’t happen. He’s a lead. 
Screenwriter Oren Uziel (22 Jump Street, the upcoming Mortal Kombat reboot) also made the fatal mistake of attempting to make this horror mash-up a sort of homage to The Breakfast Club. There is an extended scene where the trio is locked in a basement as the invasion takes place. They begin to chat about what has led them down their individual paths to being a vampire, zombie and a wannabe jock. The dialogue is ripped right out of that 80’s classic almost verbatim with horror elements subbed in for being a “flake”, “geek” or “burnout”. It’s almost embarrassing because the scene falls flat on its face due to the hokey dialogue and forced drama.

The acting is pretty abysmal too. Everyone either goes completely overboard or is sleepwalking through their role. The three leads are uncharismatic and bring nothing to the table to make their characters the least bit likable. Denis Leary is a complete asshat (his character is supposed to be, but he has zero positive qualities which equals to no redeeming arc), Patton Oswalt is annoying and Vanessa Hudgens is eye candy and nothing more which saddens me a great deal (she is a decent actress who picks horrendously awful projects). Only Keegan-Michael Key as a disgruntled vampire teacher made me laugh more than once due to his obvious adlibs.
The special effects are lame, the make-up sucks ass through a straw and as much as the script tries to be funny it never actually is. Director Robbie Pickering shows that he knows nothing about comedy, getting actors to perform their craft or interpret a script in a way that’s even the least bit entertaining. Like I said, this is a mess.

And if there’s one thing that I’m getting sick of in comedies nowadays it’s that swearing does not equal an automatic laugh. I can’t count the amount of times that a character cursed in an over-the-top manner just to get a cheap laugh. What’s worse is that the entire finale hinges upon this crap. It’s embarrassing that filmmakers and screenwriters who don’t know how to milk the comedy in natural, and genuinely funny, ways always seem to fall back on throwing as many F-Bombs as they possibly can at the audience. It was funny back in the early 2000s. Not anymore. 
Freaks of Nature is about as lame as a horror comedy can get. Everything about it feels disconnected, forced and thrown together. Avoid it like the zombie plague people seem to be attracted to in this ridiculously stupid and un-entertaining flick.

0.5 out of 5

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