Review: Jim Ojala’s Strange Nature

I almost passed on reviewing Strange Nature because the thought of frog-hybrid babies filled me with all sorts of uncomfortable emotions. Luckily, the misshapen humans in the new movie from Ojala Productions and Dormant Lion Entertainment are the result of something less unnerving from a cinematic sense, but more frightening in a realistic way. The overarching theme in Strange Nature is the fight for clean water and crops and animals that are free from pesticides and chemicals. If you do a quick Google search, this is a hot topic that rages in America almost every week. Now, its come to life in Strange Nature, a scifi drama currently available on DVD and VOD courtesy of ITN Distribution. Based on the screenplay by Jim Ojala, Strange Nature follows Kim and her young son, Brody, as they move home to the very rural town of Grand Rapids to care for her estranged father. There’s something in the water in Grand Rapids, something that’s mutating the pond frog population…and it’s slowly affecting the citizens of the backwoods town and other surrounding animals. When Kim tries to uncover this disaster, she encounters family struggles, an outdated town, mob mentality, poachers, mutated three-headed dogs, and everything in between. Buckle up for a wake-ing (see what I did there?) nightmare in Strange Nature, starring Lisa Sheridan, Jonah Beres, Bruce Bohne, Faust Checho, John Hennigan, Carlos Alazraqui, Justen Overlander, David mattey, Chalet Lizette Brannan, Stephen Tobolowsky and Tiffany Shepis.

Strange Nature follows the typical narrative horror film path, with character building and subplot progression taking place with the occasional death scene happening every fifteen minutes or so. In my notes, I wrote, “I want more killer frogs,” but Strange Nature never has any. The promotional media lead me to believe that the film would showcase mutated killer frogs and babies fused with frog DNA. This was not even close to being the case, and the main villains in the movie turned out to be mutated, almost werewolf like dogs and underlying prejudice and racism that’s still prevalent in bumbfuck towns. Of course, I should have known all of this from looking at the official cover art, pictured above, and the “based on true events” tag. Oh, well. Strange Nature is still a creature feature that’s better than anything you’ll find on the SyFy network. The camera work was phenomenal for an independent production, and every aspect of every behind-the-scenes department worked effortlessly to make Strange Nature a worthy addition to ITN Distribution’s catalog of horror films. When you throw in the acting, which was above average for a movie of this subgenre, you get a well-rounded film, packaged in a little tackle box of mystery, suspense, and muddy heeby jeepys. Hook, line, sinker, mutation, death. It’s simple. People are going missing around Grand Rapids, and you’re thoroughly going to enjoy watching the mystery get unraveled from all sides.

John Hennigan, Lisa Sheridan and David Mattey stole the show. As a longtime WWE fan, I’m glad to see Hennigan (John Morrison) is still carving a name for himself in the entertainment industry since leaving the world’s biggest wrestling promotion in 2011. This is actually his seventh horror/scifi movie role to date, and I’m happy to see he’s found a home here. Lisa Sheridan was amazing as the film’s lead actress, and this wasn’t surprising considering some of her previous roles included stints on “CSI: Miami” and “The Invasion.” Finally, David Mattey showed a different side and skill-set by playing a mutated father, who’s down in the dumps after years of abusive and pained over fear that his daughter could be assaulted by hate mongers. David’s a big guy, and he’s used to playing tougher roles, but he was still capable of pulling off his character here. He was the emotional connection Strange Nature needed. Honestly, everything was just really, really good. From the beautiful lakes, forests and hiking trails, to the practical special effects, to the action and gore, to the old school creature feature vibe this film’s category desperately needs, Strange Nature was a surprise hit. Writer/director Jim Ojala created a thematic, cinematic masterpiece hidden behind the guise of a monster movie meeting with The Hills Have Eyes. Strange Nature is currently available on DVD and DVD and I highly encourage you to check it out this Halloween season. Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)