Written by Mark H. Young and Adam Frazier
Directed by Mark H. Young
A Rob Zombie family reunion of sorts, Feral‘s main draw for horror buffs (especially those of us who frequent the convention circuit) is the inclusion of fan favorites Scout Taylor-Compton and Lew Temple. Starring in Zombie’s Halloween and its sequel made Scout a part of slasher history and Temple, having gone toe-to-toe with Michael Myers in Zombie’s remake as well, also turned up in 31 – Zombie’s funhouse version of The Running Man. This is, however, the first time both actors appear on screen together and that pairing is probably the most compelling reason to give director Mark H. Young’s frenzied backwoods survival tale a chance.
Another reason, perhaps, is the somewhat fresh approach of a survivalist horror movie where the conflict is women versus nature instead of man. Arguably, it may not even be necessary to mention that Taylor-Compton’s character, Alice, is in a same-sex relationship with Jules (Luccardi) but, in this case, it immediately makes both characters a little more interesting simply because it creates a slightly different dynamic. That allows for some story choices and character moments that play with certain genre expectations and breathe a little fresh air into the cliched “Final Girl” caricature. When their camping trip takes a detour and Alice and Jules’ group are attacked by a rabid man-creature, it’s ultimately up to them to survive nature’s unleashed abominations before they turn feral, too.
Lacking any real bite early on, Feral does pick up a little momentum when the character exposition begins in the form of a smarmy woodsman named Talbot (Temple). Introduced as a threatening hillbilly with a dark past, Talbot could have been another hackneyed trope only existing to deliver the backstory, but Temple actually has some moments to shine here instead of the usual cameo he’s relegated to in micro-budget horror films. It’s not Hepburn and Tracy by any means, but the interactions between Alice and Talbot are the highlights of Feral and it’s a minor delight to see Taylor-Compton and Temple working together in a few scenes that manage to muster up some claustrophobic intensity as the victims-turned-predators begin to multiply.
As for the creatures themselves, there is some explosive stunt work captured here and the physicality of the actors (who only appear as the feral beasts) breath a lot of life into the special effects makeup work of Jerry Constantine and his team. Possibly falling a little too in love with the makeup and look of the feral, scenes where the creatures are revealed in close-up linger a little too long, causing some promising moments to wind up looking like a makeup test. They are also dispensed of a little too quickly at times which takes away from their ferocity. When they should be ripping and raging, they’re posing almost like a group of auditioning cenobites that didn’t make the cut.
Again, if you’re fans of Scout Taylor-Compton and Lew Temple (and you should be), Feral delivers and gives both performers enough screen time to show them the respect that they richly deserve. Sure, they may not be horror royalty but they definitely hold court among their admirers, especially when they’re trapped in a cabin out in the middle of the woods.
Feral is in select theaters now and on VOD from IFC Midnight.
Feral takes a bite out of the horror genre but doesn’t quite leave its mark.