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‘Feral’ Review: A Familiar Warning, A Familiar Terror

Don’t trust the woods. Don’t trust anyone in the woods. Don’t trust anyone who even says the word “woods.”
By  · Published on May 25th, 2018

Don’t trust the woods. Don’t trust anyone in the woods. Don’t trust anyone who even says the word “woods.”

Horror movies are home to plenty of warnings — don’t have sex, don’t go in there, don’t stick your finger in that hole — but one of the most common cautions has to do with the woods. Basically, stay the hell out. Happily, for those of us who love the genre, characters never seem to listen. Feral continues that trend by sending six friends camping in the woods with gory but predictable results.

Matt (George Finn) & Brie (Renee Olstead) are young and in love, Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton) & Jules (Olivia Luccardi) are in the early days of a romance, and Jesse (Brock Kelly) & Gina (Landry Allbright) are pretty much just bang buddies. The six are celebrating recent graduations from medical school with a camping trip to a reportedly beautiful lake, but their first night beneath the stars and the trees ends in terror. Matt is slaughtered by a snarling, human-like creature, and Brie is attacked but survives. The four remaining friends are terrified, but help arrives when a man named Talbot (Lew Temple) shows up and offers shelter at his nearby cabin.

And by “help” I, of course, mean more terror.

Director Mark Young and co-writer Adam Frazier waste little time setting up the characters before getting into the nitty-gritty of Feral‘s unleashed horrors, and it leaves just one of the couples even remotely worth caring about. That too is fairly standard for the “cabin in the woods” subgenre, but the film overcomes viewers’ dearth of concern for characters by delivering when it comes to the wet and gory goods.

While the others are blandly sweet or generically jerky, it’s Alice and Jules who stand apart from the others. Gay characters aren’t exactly rare in horror, but here it’s the context that gives them more depth than the rest as they discuss the fear of coming out to family and Alice deals with her jealous and frustrated ex in Jesse. The film doesn’t manage much in the way of heart, but what it does muster comes from these two.

The horror is ultimately where the film needs to succeed, though, and in that respect, it executes its intentions well enough. The feral humanoids have a creepy look to them, and their attacks aren’t shy when it comes to the bloody carnage. The dead have their flesh torn and slippery guts munched on, but the survivors grow increasingly — and very visibly — ill with infection. There’s a 28 Days Later-like energy to the wounded when they rise up to kill, and the dedication to practical effects keeps all of it visually and viscerally engaging.

It’s a good thing too as the script doesn’t give viewers much else to latch onto. This is especially the case once Alice and Jules separate leaving each anchored in the company of someone far less interesting. Questionable choices and actions disappoint, and the decision to open the film with Talbot killing a woman removes any doubt or suspicion that could otherwise have been built on the arrival of someone new into the story. His role comes too clear too soon while the film would have benefited from more mystery.

The cast is limited, but performances are generally good across the board. The highlights, unsurprisingly, are the three most recognizable faces. Taylor-Compton and Temple both starred in Rob Zombie’s Halloween, and Luccardi was one of the teens fighting back in It Follows.

Feral takes a familiar premise and does something familiar with it. What it lacks in creativity, though, it makes up for with competence, and that’s more than a lot of low budget horror movies can claim.

Feral released to select theaters and VOD starting today.

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.