Impulse Buy Theater - Freaks of Nature
The film was only out for one week.
You see, I remember seeing the trailer for Freaks of Nature a week before it was released last Halloween and wondering how on earth had I not heard of this before??? The premise of the movie, a small town in Ohio that plays host to an uneasy truce between humans, zombies and vampires that sees said truce break down upon an alien invasion. I mean, that sentence alone contains so much awesome that I can hardly believe I’ve typed it. But thanks to the day job, I didn’t have time to see it on its opening week. And then it was gone. Needless to say, its release on home video made for perfect Impulse Buy Theater fodder. In this review, we hopefully will answer the questions of why did it fail so badly and did it deserve to?
Reread that above paragraph…okay, maybe just the awesome sentence paraphrasing the plot. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell you the type of story this is…it just sets up the world. The story itself is a rehash of the high school coming of age film and all the tropes associated with it. The main character is a virginal baseball player that has the hots for his next door neighbor (naturally the hottest girl in the school, played by Vanessa Hudgens) but doesn’t even remotely register on her radar, accidentally ruined the reputation of the girl he eventually falls for and had a friend that was deemed uncool by high school standards (you know the drill, the usual smart but nerdy/dorky kid) and thus, to save face/reputation, had to ditch him. For those of you keeping score at home, that should just about fill up your John Hughes bingo card. If you have a few spaces blank, allow me to fill them in for you, the aforementioned dorky kid? He’s got aspirations to leave the small town the movie takes place in to do something better but cannot escape the shadow of his older brother, a star athlete, whom his parents worship. Anybody got Bingo yet?
As the old saying goes, every story has already been told. My corollary to that is that the entertainment value of a repeated story depends on how the story is told. With the setup of taking a John Hughes movie and sticking in vampires, zombies and aliens…this should be amazing, right? Unfortunately, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some stuff here in this movie that is amazing: an obvious Twilight riff, Patton Oswalt’s cameo, the final form of the aliens, Werner Herzog’s cameo and, I gotta admit, a finale that I SHOULD have seen coming, yet didn’t (and, actually, very glad I didn’t). But these bits don’t really push this above the tropes the film has bound itself to and, again, given the working premise, really does feel like a missed opportunity.
Overall, the movie proves to be fun, yet forgettable. In going through the special features of the disc, there is an alternate opening that I feel would have been better than what ended up being used in the film. The film starts in media res, then flashes back to the beginning of the story (I can’t remember if it was 18 or 24 hours ago). Yet another mechanic that can prove to be kinda cliché…but by the time we get to the middle of the movie, we get to see this shot a second time. Now, had the movie excelled between the opening and this scene’s second appearance in the middle, this might have been okay (heavy emphasis on the might)…but the fact that the movie was, well, average (not necessarily an insult here, mind you), and unfortunately the feel of the scene becomes repetitive…and not the “blowing off the doors” sort of chaos they were likely aiming for. The alternate opening, however, gives a great overview of this world as well as putting right up front what kind of story you’re in for as a viewer since the whole thing is told via an animated high school notebook with the usual doodles and such often found within. So, did the film deserve to fail as badly as it did? Not really, there are far worse films out there…but why it failed is clear. While it does have a unique twist to a classic movie story type, it really didn’t use that twist to its utmost…to transcend the genre or at least rise above many in the genre that it chose to inhabit. Come to think of it, the sheer fact that I had no idea this movie was coming out until a week or so before its release...and I'd like to think I was part of the intended/target audience...leads me to believe that perhaps Sony's marketing folks had no idea how to sell this film. It’s worth a glance if you can watch it or stream it for free…maybe worth a rental, but I don’t think I can recommend paying more than $5 to see this one…which is a shame, since, again, that premise was so damn awesome.