FTP: Feral (2017)

MARCH 5, 2019


One thing I like seeing in zombie movies - but rarely do - is a finite number of undead threatening our heroes. For obvious reasons, most present an insurmountable swarm of the damn things, and end with any real resolution to the threat; I mean, if it worked just fine for Romero (a few times, in fact) there's no reason anyone else should feel the need to bother coming up with a conclusive... er, conclusion. Feral is one of those rare exceptions; there's only one zombie at the start and naturally over the course of the film he creates a few others, but unless I missed something they're all dispatched by the end, case closed!

Then again it's not presented as a usual zombie movie. Don't get me wrong, it most certainly is: the undead creature our heroes encounter bites one of them and they die, only to come back as a similar creature, and others that are bitten eventually turn into them as well. But at first glance it seems to be more of a "monster in the woods" kind of movie, with six campers getting deep enough into the woods where going back to their car instantly won't be easy, and the zombie thing itself looks more like one of the Descent lurkers than any green-faced kinda shambling "walker" you might picture. Bonus, the characters know what zombies are (from movies - they don't BELIEVE in them) which keeps the exposition about what they are/how they work limited to what specifically makes them different than whatever you see on Walking Dead or what have you. I can appreciate that.

If only the rest of the movie was as novel! Our characters are more thinly drawn than slasher victims, without an iota of their usual ability to be memorable. They're led by Scout Taylor Compton, who refers to herself as a doctor even though she's still in med school, and part of the thrust is the non-bitten people squabbling over whether or not they should reduce the risk to themselves by offing the infected, something Compton is vehemently opposed to. If this was some kind of Crimson Tide scenario where we the viewer didn't know "what the message said" (in this case, what would happen or maybe even if someone was actually bit or just injured) there might be some more punch to it, but as anyone watching has seen several thousand zombie stories by now, it makes it quite hard to side with her.

I'll give it this though: they don't waste much time getting to the scary stuff; one of the campers gets bit in the first ten minutes or so, sparing us too much of their personal drama (at least no one's cheating, but a jealous ex isn't that much of an improvement). Interestingly, the movie kills off the males of the group first, but with the surviving women making such dumb decisions it doesn't quite land as a feminist movie either, so there's not really any benefit to it. To be fair, it's competently made, the zombie makeup is good, and it never overstayed its welcome or anything - it's a perfectly "fine" movie, in other words. But there's nothing in it you'll remember twenty minutes later either; indeed, my wife actually watched a chunk of it with me before going to bed (I honestly can't remember the last time she partook in "Horror Movie A Day" type activity, as she usually has too much work to do) and the next morning when she asked how it turned out, I had trouble answering a few of her more specific questions. No permanent spot on the shelf for you, Feral!

What say you?


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