Strange Nature is a 2018 thriller written and directed by James Ojala. The film stars Lisa Sheridan as Kim Sweet, a former pop star who returns to her home town to take care of her sick father. Jonah Beres plays Brody Sweet, Kim’s son and Bruce Bohne plays Chuck Sweet, her father. Strange Nature is strange, but also engaging.
The film’s plot revolves around Kim(Sheridan) returning home with her son to take care of her father, who has cancer. While getting reacquainted with her town she finds multiple frogs with deformities. It soon turns into an epidemic of deformed animals and deformed children. Kim tries to find out what is happening as the town begins to panic and blame a deformed local, Joseph(played by David Mattey) and his deformed daughter, Michelle(played by Chalet Lizette Brannan).
The film is a mix of thriller and monster movie and does it in a really fun way. The film jumps between an unseen monster attacking people in the woods and Kim’s story of trying to find the cause of the abnormalities. The film does take some basic tropes and turns them around. A lot of the problems seem like they are caused by pollution, but as we find out as the film goes on it isn’t that simple. The problem is pesticides, but from pesticides that are overly organic cause algae which causes parasites. Twists like that help the movie stand out from generic monster film. The film claims to be based on a true story and there was a point when a lot of deformed frogs were found, but besides that there isn’t much of a connection. The actual story found no connection between deformed frogs and pesticides and there were no monsters running around in the woods or deformed children born.
The acting for the most part in the film is solid. There are some familiar faces sprinkled through out who do a good job. Stephen Tobolowsky plays Mayor Paulson and plays the part to perfection. He comes across as reasonable, but still in the wrong due to his lack of action. Carlos Alazraqui plays Greg, the local bar owner and nice guy with bad friends. One of the more recognizable faces would be John Hennigan who plays Sam, an angry man who blames the deformed Joseph for the town’s troubles. Hennigan is more widely know as John Morrison, Johnny Mundo or Johnny Impact a professional wrestler. He actually does a really good job and plays the role well. The rest of the cast does a good to great job with few weak performances. Lisa Sheridan carries a bulk of the film and does a great job especially with Beres and Bohne. The family aspect is portrayed great with a fun but sometimes misunderstood family dynamic.
The special effects are well done for the most part. Once or twice in the film the special effect falter, but not for long. The deformed animals and babies were extremely well done. The actual monster that hunted in the woods was less impressive, but didn’t have much screen time to compensate for that. The special effects for Michelle(Brannan) were well done and looked very realistic. Joseph(Mattey)’s on the other hand didn’t hold up as well especially when they are in scenes together. The best special effects are at the very end with an eyeball in a child’s back. The effects used when looking through the monster’s eyes are a real weak spot. Instead of looking primal or bestial it is difficult to watch and looks saturated. It is used sparingly but still noticeable.
Some Extra Thoughts: The furry joke feels out of place. The little mention of Brody’s father is weird, they never say if he is dead and never say where it is. The scenes with the dog are very disturbing, especially the puppy scene.
Overall the audio is good. No missed dialogue due to bad sound quality or bad sound effects. The opening song, Don’t Make Me Go by Off With Their Heads was good and sounded great, but it is the only song really used in the film. The sound effects used for the deformed animals are very, very good and hard to listen to because of it. They are almost to good.
Strange Nature isn’t the average monster movie and focuses more on the characters and their town. It isn’t a traditional thriller, but it has the right elements there. The twists and turns the story take help make it feel different than other ones like it. It is a solid watch with an intriguing little story, but also good characters.