If attractive young people ever stopped taking vacations in the woods, would the horror genre cease to exist? In writer-director Mark H. Young’s “Feral” (co-written with Adam Frazier) a sextet of partying medical students go on a camping trip that takes a bad turn when a diseased humanoid beastie attacks and infects them, one by one. But hey, they’re in a B-movie and they’re in the wilderness … what did they expect?
“Feral” doesn’t necessarily reinvent the form — with one exception. Scout Taylor-Compton plays the primary hero/survivor from her gang of doomed libertines and bucking tradition, her character Alice is a lesbian, in a committed relationship.
Beyond defying the usual square/straight model for the splatter flick “final girl,” Alice’s training as a doctor makes a difference in how this story plays out. As her friends get mauled and begin to turn into monsters themselves, Alice feels ethically obliged to try to heal them, rather than shrewdly helping them die.
The well-developed character motivation makes some difference in that the resultant mayhem feels logical. “Feral” avoids what usually sinks these kinds of stories: the frustration of watching unlikable victims make dumb decisions.
But while the film features strong performances and good direction, it’s still way too rote. A bunch of kids head into the forest and meet a monster. What happens next is just a matter of connecting the dots.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood