If Wes Craven’s Scream has taught us anything, it’s that if you don’t respect the rules, you will not survive. Feral is a film that rebels against all rules of horror survival in exchange for a blood infested nightmare where the odds are against, well, everyone. Yet as the movie attempts to brew some logic in the midst of bad decision making, this unfortunate scenario presents moral challenges that ask the audience, at which point is it ok to kill your friends?
Feral’s opening sequence sets the stage for bloodbath, quickly acquainting you with its monsters. By definition, they are feral (as you might assume), vicious and predatory by nature. Worst of all, they can infect others with only a scratch or bite.
Director Mark Young wastes no time in familiarizing the audience with our main characters, their history, and harbored feelings toward one another. Our protagonists are medical students traveling on foot to a remote destination, far from any ear that would ever hear them scream for help. With a few remaining hours to reach their destination, they decide to set up camp. Retiring to their tents for the night, the horrific turn of events takes place after someone is foolish enough to utter the phrase, “I’ll be right back.” If ever a plot device existed in this film, I’d say it’s the last bathroom break this poor dunce will ever have.
From this point on, Feral takes a nosedive into nightmarish circumstances. Trapped in the isolated wilderness while being hunted by monsters, or quasi-zombie creatures in this case. Yet Mark Young’s direction for the film does anything but stigmatize Feral’s narrative by presenting several factors. Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton), is facing the inevitable with her infected friends and what they will succumb to. Try as she might, she is stuck battling the odds with every attempt to find a solution that doesn’t involve killing her friends. When confronting the decision Alice states, “I’m a doctor, I don’t take lives I save them.”
Good luck, Alice!
The strongest qualities of the film are our leading ladies, Scout Taylor-Compton (Halloween 2007) and Olivia Luccardi (It Follows, Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block). Compton and Luccardi deliver worthy performances that easily single them out among the rest of the cast. Their acting talents allow them to provide ample depth to their characters, making it easy to invest effortlessly into the film.
In a recent interview with Cryptic Rock, Scout Taylor-Compton shared that, “It was really amazing playing her honestly. I was hooked on Alice from just reading the script. I normally play roles that are very vulnerable, Alice is not that at all. That is what struck me, playing a confident woman. When things get real, she has no hesitation, she takes over the situation, and it’s powerful! I absolutely loved playing Alice.”
Mark Young’s ability to execute a solid horror film with plenty of jump scares, practical special effects and atmosphere horror is nothing short of impressive. Thanks to special effects supervisor Jerry Constantine (The Watchmen, Seed of Chucky), the world within Feral has an authentic quality without the use of overdone CGI. The Ferals are pretty freaky, and the gore is unsettling. All effective ingredients for a horror movie.
The open space of the wild against the dreaded sense of isolation and confinement creates a wonderful contrast that is difficult to avoid; especially if you’re fully invested in the film. There are several scenes Mark Young focuses on throughout Feral that demonstrate how truly isolated our characters are. By utilizing simple techniques such as longshots and focusing primarily on zooming slowly out of the forest, it emphasizes the sense of unease and loneliness.
Much like the phases of a viral disease, Feral’s follows a similar format. The first act concentrates on the disease spreading amongst the group of friends as it begins killing them off slowly. With incubation being the most bizarre of the three phases, Feral maintains the high tension as friends are slowly transforming into the flesh eating Ferals without ever knowing at what point they fully change. And finally, the re-animation phase in which our characters become the flesh eating Ferals on an uncontrollable rampage.
Feral takes a subgenre that struggles to attain the notoriety it rightfully deserves and kicks it into high gear with strong female leads, tipping our hats to model heroines in films like Halloween (1978) and Alien (1979). Feral is not a film harboring any sort of social undertones but rather, it demonstrates that the simplest of writing can bear a multidimensional narrative. It’s not the most original film you’ll ever see but it’s definitely an entertaining ride from start to finish.
Feral is currently available in digital format, VOD, on major streaming platforms such as VUDU, iTunes and Amazon Video. Let us know what you think of Feral on the Nightmare on Film Street Facebook or Twitter page. Start a conversation. Stay ghoulish, friends!