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Freaks of Nature (2015)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/9/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/17/2016
The characters collectively thought of as the "Universal Monsters" -- Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman (and to a lesser extent, The Invisible Man and The Creature from the Black Lagoon) -- gained notoriety in the 1930s and became very popular. At some point, a genius at Universal said, "Hey! If people love these monsters, we should put a bunch of them in one movie!" Thus, we were treated to titles like Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, and House of Dracula. This "Monster Mash" idea persists to this day and every now and then we get a movie which attempts to blend different kinds of supernatural creatures, which is easier said than done. Can the newly released Freaks of Nature perfect this exercise?
At first glance, the town of Dillford seems normal, as it contains houses, businesses, and a local plant which makes "riblets", a popular fast-food item. However, a closer look reveals that in Dillford, humans live along-side vampires and zombies. The zombies wear collars to keep them in-line and the vampires appear to be more interested in sex than blood. Dag (Nicholas Braun) is attempting to have a "normal" high-school experience, as he pitches for the baseball team and lusts after local bad-girl, Lorelei (Vanessa Hudgens). However, any notion of a "normal" life in Dillford is crushed when aliens invade the town. Dag runs for his life and he soon finds himself aligned with Petra (Mackenzie Davis), a recently transformed vampire, and Ned (Josh Fadem), a recently transformed zombie. Together, the three of them must figure out how to stop the aliens. That is, if Petra and Ned can keep themselves from killing Dag.
If there's anything which I simply can't tolerate, it's a boring movie. My wish would be for every film to be packed with action. However, sometimes that wish is granted and I realize that it's not what I want. The 2000 Japanese film Versus may be the ultimate example of this, but the first act of Freaks of Nature certainly tries its best. The film literally hits the ground running and doesn't let up for quite some time, as we are treated to chases, fights, and stand-offs. This gets to be a little too frenetic and confusing (the relationship between Dag and Lorelei is never established) and one has to wonder how long the film can keep up this pace. And then we learn how long when the movie comes to a screeching halt. This reveals the first of the film's major flaws -- the pacing. Director Robbie Pickering shifts gears a bit too much, as the movie goes from hyperactive to lethargic in a matter of moments. We go from action to seemingly non-stop talking, and the change is simply too drastic. The second and third acts continue this pattern and the movie becomes very grating as it can't decide what it wants to be.
Similarly, the movie bites off way more than it can chew. I'm sure that on paper, Writer Oren Uziel's ideas seemed like a can't miss proposition, but in reality, we've got a near-mess of humans, zombies, vampires, and aliens. Do we want to see these various creatures all in one movie? Maybe. Does it work here? Not at all. We see in a deleted scene found on this Disc that, at one point, there existed an opening sequence which gave us more background on why all of these characters are in Dillford. But, with that scene cut, the movie expects us to accept this True Blood-esque scenario and just go with it. However, this leaves us with too many questions at the beginning. The movie then decides that it wants to be something completely different and turns into a The Breakfast Club, as Dag, Petra, and Ned explore the fact that they all used to be friends, but drifted apart in high school. How many times have we seen this cliche trotted out? And is this what we want in the middle of our horror-comedy film? It's admirable that Freaks of Nature wants to insert a little heart into the story, but we actually don't need it and that's not why we are here.
The trailer for Freaks of Nature did not make the film look very promising, so I was somewhat surprised when I was interested in the action-packed opening. But, then reality began to settle in, as I was faced with too many characters, tonal changes, and jokes which mostly fell flat. The movie ebbs and flows and then ends with a whimper, as the finale is woefully unsatisfying. As it turns out, the most impressive thing about Freaks of Nature is the cast. I'm not sure who was involved in the film that was able to draw all of these familiar faces together, but they must not have shown everyone a script. I'm all for a good monster mash, but Freaks of Nature proves once again that it's a difficult recipe to master.
Freaks of Nature is an oddly inaccurate title for this movie on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly bright or dark, despite the fact that much of the movie takes place at night. The level of detail is good and the depth works well in the exterior scenes. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a lively track, as we are treated to nearly constant stereo and surround sound effects during the action sequences. The film contains many "surprise" attacks and we can hear the approach from the front or rear speakers. The subwoofer gets a good workout from the explosions and the sounds from the alien ship.
The Freaks of Nature Blu-ray Disc contains a smatter of extra features. The "Alternate Opening" (3 minutes) works better in my opinion, as it offers more concrete information as to how Dilford became the town which it is today. The Disc offers two DELTED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. One of these tacks on an additional scene to the finale. The final extra is a 4 minute GAG REEL, which offers some of the same jokes seen during the end credits.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long