(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: In the rural wetlands of Minnesota near Duluth, Nature appears to be changing in some most unnatural ways. People living near the water are disappearing and thought to be kidnapped. Other children are deforming and the as yet unborn are becoming deformed and monstrous. Particularly susceptible are the frogs born with extra limbs and misshapen bodies. Nature has become most twisted. Director: James Ojala; Writer: James Ojala; Stars: Stephen Tobolowsky, John Hennigan, Lisa Sheridan. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

In the mid-1960s a new kind of horror film was in vogue. It was the ecological horror film. With attention of many people, particularly students, was on how neglect and apathy had allowed the destruction of nature. A popular subgenre of the horror field suggested that nature would fight back or worse be destroyed by the people ravaging nature. Films like NO BLADE OF GRASS, THE SWARM, and (perhaps) THE BIRDS were made on the premise that nature was no longer the happy welcoming place it once was considered. A generation of frogs has been born with growths on their bodies and extra limbs. A dog gives birth to a litter of puppies and mother and puppies have inside organs sticking out. The mother dog is popping out of her flesh. Disturbing animals have come a long way since THE FLY (1958) or even THE FLY (1986). Besides nobody likes to see a dog die in a movie. Dogs are usually a symbol of innocence.

Lisa Sheridan plays Kim Sweet, a rock star who once was high on the charts for the life of one song, but was never able to repeat the trick. Her father is now dying and Kim want to do what she can to ease his pain. She brings along her eleven-year-old son. The town has seen much better days, even without mutant puppies. And with realistic-looking five-legged frogs and other suddenly blood- sucking frogs Kim suspects that the local American Patriot Chemicals could be connected. Kim finds the town in denial about its very serious ecological problems. Particularly defensive is town mayor played by (Stephen Tobolowsky, who may be best known by the film reference "Phil...? PHIL...!" He is the mayor of the town by reason of being in the greatest denial.

STRANGE NATURE is very much the kind of horror film that could have been made in the late 60s or early 70s. One difference is that the characters, foreground or background are really better fleshed out. That is important in a low budget horror film. Ojala recognizes that his viewer will not identify with a character who is poorly fleshed out. In fact, as a bonus much of the town seems believable. Ojala does a good job of making his characters believable, and he gives them some weight.

The plot may be familiar, but the characters are are not and the characters are always watchable, for those of strong stomach. I rate it a low +7 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2018 Mark R. Leeper