Considering it starts out a little shaky, Feral, the latest from director/co-writer Mark H. Young (The Killing Jar), actually turns into something rather interesting, albeit predictable and not especially scary.
Three couples (most of whom are med students of some nature) head out for a long hike in the woods one weekend, and after a full day of walking and probably getting lost, they set up camp and decide to get re-oriented in the morning. We know from a prologue that Feral features some sort of infection that turns people into crazed, bloodthirsty lunatics that likely can’t be cured, so when one of the male med students heads out of his tent to pee and is subsequently attacked, we aren’t particularly surprised.
Feral plays in that pool that’s a zombie movie without really being a zombie movie, since the attackers aren’t technically dead but you still have to straight-up murder them to eliminate the threat. Interestingly enough, the male characters are the first to get picked off by whatever is skulking around in the darkness, leaving a same-sex couple, Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton, who ends up being the primary hero of the film) and Jules (Olivia Luccardi); Brie (Renee Olstead), who has just gotten engaged; and Gina (Landry Allbright). The women land at the off-the-grid cabin of an older guy named Talbot (Lew Temple, recently of “The Walking Dead” and The Endless), who is happy to give them shelter but is also harboring secret knowledge about whatever is going on outside.
If you’ve seen literally any “in the woods” horror movie, you know how this goes. Characters get picked off one by one, more details about these feral creatures is revealed, and eventually the few survivors find ways of not just defending themselves but actually eliminating the threat. It’s your garden-variety, cat-and-mouse game, but the mice are packing shotguns and aren’t afraid to use them.
Feral is well shot, effectively lit, perhaps a tad underwritten, and the minimal makeup effects on the creatures themselves are impressive. Plus, there’s ample amount of gut-ripping violence (most of it done under the cover of darkness) to satisfy most gore-hounds. In a world where horror is becoming increasingly mainstream, it’s nice to be reminded that down-and-dirty B-movies like this one can still get the job done.
And for the record, I saw this alone at home, but I bet this one works really well with an audience.
The film screens at the Music Box Theatre at midnight on Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2.