UNNATURAL is the fifth of the After Dark 8 Films to Die For movies that I watched. So far this year’s line up is the strongest lineup After Dark has offered, but I was feeling the void of there not being a creature feature offering. I so far watched zombies, a few slasher flicks, and a ghost story, but where is my creature flick? Luckily the people who select the films over at After Dark felt the same void and gave us UNNATURAL. This is a creature flick with an environmental message that has a more serious tone than some of the other previous films. The film is overall enjoyable and as far as I am concerned made only one fatal mistake.
UNNATURAL stars James Remar as Martin, a man who isolated himself away in the Alaskan wilderness and runs the cozy little Black Rabbit Lodge. The movie takes place during the time of year when there is only four hours of sunshine between sunup and sundown (Remar calls it “four hours of dusk”) and the temperatures are pretty brutal. In the middle of this setup, a professional photographer, Brooking (Ron Carlson) and two models rent out the Lodge to do a photoshoot. Brooking is easily the most loathsome character I’ve seen in some time in a film. There is nothing likable about him and from the first time he is onscreen you’ll be eager to see him die. Horribly. Brooking, here, symbolizes the arrogance and ignorance of the “civilized man” who believes that nature and everything in it is there to be used by Man and then tossed aside. The first night at the Lodge, he insults Martin, the lodge, and Martin’s indigenous friends (“For the shoot, can you find us someone who looks really Eskimo-ish?”).
In a close by area there is a research facility headed up by Dr. Hannah Lindval (Sherilyn Fenn) who are genetically altering polar bears in order to help them adapt to the changing environment which is devastating their natural habitat. Lindval escapes a deadly attack a the research lab which kills all her co-workers and eventually finds herself at the Black Rabbit Lodge.
As with the previous films in the 2015 After Dark 8 Films to Die For lineup, the acting in UNNATURAL is strong all around. If anything, Brooking comes across as too much of an asshole, but the other cast members help to smooth out his edges. A little bit. This film pretty much follows the standard creature feature pattern where the threat is identified, it escapes, and it terrorizes. There’s nothing new offered in UNNATURAL, but that’s not to say it is any less entertaining. Remar is a solid actor and brings his A-game to every film he is in. And what fan of TWIN PEAKS isn’t excited to see an alum of that show? The scenery is utilized by director Hank Braxtan to help establish the isolation and unyielding, dangerous situation the group is in. The humans are really at the mercy of the genetically enhanced creature roaming the country side.
The one big flaw with this film is the lack of the creature. Sure we get lots of scenes of the creature killing humans–the first kill is the best–but we really never get a good look at the genetically enhanced polar bear. I appreciate that Braxtan builds up the suspense and tension by not immediately showing the creature (as they do in every SyFy creature flick), but we really didn’t get to see the creature until the one hour and seventeen minute mark–and even then we only get a very quick and spotty look at it. People who watch and love creature features want to see what the creature looks like. The climax of the film was also very dark and was difficult to see what was going on. I watched UNNATURAL at nighttime, with all the lights out, and I still had trouble seeing what was going on.
These complaints aside, I had a fun time with UNNATURAL and liked the environmental message that was delivered. It was a good message that wasn’t bashed over our heads repeatedly. Sure there were some gaping holes in the plot–like why they photographer had to go to that remote area where there was barely any sunshine to do a photoshoot. But if you can just take it for what it is, UNNATURAL is a fun ride and is a great addition to the 2015 8 Films to Die For line up. Check this one out.
Director: Hank Braxtan
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer