I started watching Strange Nature genuinely wanting to like it. It promised me mutated frogs in a creature feature based in the midwest, my home base. However, it missed the mark in a major way.
Strange Nature starts out strong with some stunning drone views of the land of 10,000 lakes and strong acting with instantly relatable characters. A mom and her son have moved back to Duluth, MN from LA to take care of her sick father. A local nature guide finds a bunch of weirdly mutated frogs and decides to bring them to the local elementary science teacher. Then we see a photographer out taking pictures of insects when an unseen creature attacks her. There are some excellent bloody effects and screaming involved, and the camera work is well-executed.
At this point, I was moderately impressed. It is a solid setup for a good creature feature. However, this movie then coasts for over an hour with only a few sporadic interesting bits – cool looking mutant puppies and babies. The effects in this movie are frankly awesome, and the director should have leaned into them more. Between the rare mutant scenes, the rest of the film involves the cast explaining in exhausting detail what effect humans have on the environment.
The meat of this movie is just a public service announcement about the effects of pesticides, even organic ones, on the environment. I watch documentaries about environmental concerns; they definitely have a place in filmmaking. The problem is that a horror film isn’t the right medium to foist a heavy message about environmental conscience practices. Make a drama or a documentary, please.
The climax of the movie comes abruptly, as though someone realized that they’ve used all their podium time and need to immediately wrap up their speech. There are a lot of bloody scenes and gore as the film reaches its peak but it still doesn’t feel like the payoff was worth the agonizingly long wait. The PSA message of this film is only slightly more subtle than Birdemic, which is unfortunate because it’s clear that director and writer James Ojala had the money and resources to do something really impressive.
Strange Nature has a solid setup to work from, but ends up losing itself in a message that wasn’t appropriate for the medium.
Review screener provided
Strange Nature is a well-directed and fair cinematic ride with good effects, but the story ultimately founders as a 100 minute-long PSA.
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