It probably sounded like a hoot during the pitch stage.
“There’s this small town, right? It’s full of humans, zombies, and vampires, but they all co-exist together. Sorta like people of different races, I guess. With me so far? A town full of humans, zombies, AND vampires? What teenager wouldn’t want to see this, right? But here’s the big twist: all three groups have to learn to get along once a giant UFO shows up and giant slug-like aliens start pouring out.”
I mean, who wouldn’t want to invest a few million dollars on that concept? (Well, I wouldn’t. But I would be willing to drop ten bucks on that movie ticket.) Originally known as “Kitchen Sink,” the screenplay was well-regarded enough to warrant inclusion in the annual “Blacklist” several years ago — but it sure seems like something went sour between the screenplay stage and the end product because, and it pains me to say this, Freaks of Nature is pretty much terrible across the board.
It’s hard to believe that the “humans/zombies/vampires” concept was all that brilliant to start with, but clearly something went terribly wrong with this project. The problems are numerous: Not only does the film do a terrible job of setting up its three-tiered social system, but it also has a lot of trouble delivering anything that’s not clunky plot exposition and/or one-note character development. The flick also stops dead, on several occasions, so that one of the more recognizable actors can dole out some truly dire comedy material. Whether this stuff is scripted or improvised is hard to say, but one should expect at least a few random chuckles from a film that features folks like Denis Leary, Keegan-Michael Key, Bob Odenkirk, Joan Cusack, Pat Healy, Rachael Harris, Mae Whitman, and Patton Oswalt. Bad news: this movie delivers very few chuckles.
Better news: the three lead kids (Nicholas Braun as the goofy human; Mackenzie Davis as the beautiful newbie vampire; Josh Fadem as the nerdly, awkward zombie) acquit themselves surprisingly well. The problem is that their banter is never appealing, the jokes are never funny, the action scenes are clunky, there’s a whole lot of arid downtime in between the ostensibly colorful set pieces, and on the whole the movie seems like it was edited with a blender.
To call Freaks of Nature a mess would be putting it mildly. While the filmmakers certainly deserve an A for effort on their “kitchen sink” approach to comedic horror, the sad truth is that Freaks of Nature is just a loud and frequently aimless collection of barely connected scenes. There’s also a half-hearted attempt at social commentary in the form of a riblet processing plant that keeps itself afloat by utilizing genetically-modified ingredients, and while this slice of nonsense does pay off with a solid chuckle once the alien leader beams down and speaks up, it’s not exactly Onion-level satire we’re talking about here.
Were it not for the likable leads and the endless array of colorful guest stars, Freaks of Nature would be a lot more painful. As it stands, it’s recommended only to the staunchest of horror/comedy aficionados. I’m talking about people who’ve seen Student Bodies, Saturday the 14th, My Demon Lover, and My Boyfriend’s Back. This is a sloppy, misshapen, and exceedingly flawed film — but hey, it’s not every day you come across a zombie/vampire/alien horror/action/slapstick mash-up. That’s gotta be worth a little something.