Some will compare Strange Nature to Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever based on a glance at the film’s premise about a deadly outbreak. Others, including myself, will find the flick to be a fitting throwback to a brand of vintage cinema that gave audiences thrills and chills yet remained ambiguous about its genre. Is it a horror? A thriller? And, does the plot act as a parable for a real-life disaster? In the same way Godzilla reflected a nuclear era.
Comparing Strange Nature to Godzilla is both good and bad. It’s a generous compliment for writer/director James Ojala, but it also provides big shoes for James to fill. In actuality, the film does a good job standing on its own. The story begins with deformed frogs that are found by former pop star Kim Sweet (Lisa Sheridan) and her son Brody (Jonah Beres) as they return to Kim’s hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. The repulsive discovery is a call to action, but Kim’s tarnished reputation burns the credibility of her findings. Even Mayor Paulson (Stephen Tobolowsky) is finding the case hard to swallow. However, the problem could also be connected to a pesticide local farms are using. A controversial reveal would poke holes in Duluth’s agriculture.
Having recently seen the disturbing documentary Eating Animals, I found it easy to catch on to the message in James Ojala’s movie, but Ojala’s writing is accessible for all audiences. His writing is pretty blunt, but that adds to the film’s charm and ties it back to how older movies would confront issues that are parallel to our world. There’s enough mystery, that is, when characters are trying to piece together their crisis, which evolves from a safety hazard to full-on creature horror (which is where James Ojala, a special effects artist by trade, hits a home run).
The finale is a little too abrupt considering how satisfying the build up is, but Strange Nature impressed me. I’m sure it’ll surprise (and spook) you too.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie