Posted on May 20, 2018

Feral: Another Reason Not to Go Camping

Dawn Keetley

Feral (2018) is directed and written by Mark H. Young, with help in the writing from Adam Frazier. It follows six young people—most of them seem to be in med school—on a camping trip in the California forest (it was filmed around Los Angeles).  The film does not spend too much time establishing the stories or characters of the campers before they hear strange noises in the woods. Is it an animal seeking revenge on Gina (Landry Allbright) for her fur coat one of them suggests? (And I have to say that a long fur coat seems a strange article of clothing to take on a camping trip but Gina, generally, seems unprepared for the trip). Shortly afterwards, at about 14 minutes in, one of the group is attacked by a savage human-looking creature—the “feral” of the title. And from that point on, the group is on the defense and making the usual bad decisions—splitting up, leaving each other alone, falling asleep on watch, and refusing to kill people–things—they should clearly kill.

Here is the trailer:


Feral is well-directed and well shot: kudos to both Mark Young and cinematographer Christos Bitsakos. And, fortunately, those among the cast who are least capable of acting fall victim to the “feral” virus sooner rather than later. The leads, including Scout Taylor-Compton as Alice and Olivia Luccardi (from It Follows) as her girlfriend Jules, both play their parts admirably, as does Lew Temple (Axel from The Walking Dead) as the apparently sinister man, Talbot,  they encounter in an isolated cabin.

Lew Temple as Talbot

The main problem I had with Feral is its utter predictability. Indeed, I found myself asking (out loud, on occasion), why was this film made? It adds absolutely nothing new to the horror genre. It is Rec (2007) / Quarantine (2008) meets Cabin Fever (2002): the “feral” threat is identical to the strange virus that afflicts its victims in Rec / Quarantine—and the setting, as well as the gore, is identical to Cabin Fever. I kept waiting for a twist, something that would lift Feral above what’s been done before, but the film ended and I was still waiting.

There is also some pretty bad writing. At one point, for instance, Alice and another character find what is clearly a trapdoor to a cellar under a rug. “What is it?” the character asks. “It’s like a cellar or something,” replies Alice, as if she’s found some strange new thing. It is, actually, a cellar.

Scout Taylor-Compton and Olivia Luccardi as leads Alice and Jules

The only thing that elevates Feral above the kind of standard virus / zombie narrative meets cabin-in-the-woods narrative (and I thought about this after the film was over) is that the main couple—and the “final girl”—are lesbians. The feral virus, moreover, the origins of which remain obscure, foments in the traditional heterosexual nuclear family—as Talbot recounts just over halfway through the film. It does seem that the horror film in particular has remained stuck in rather heteronormative patterns, and Feral does represent a striking divergence from those patterns.

Feral is streaming as of Friday May 25. Check out the link here:

Check out our review of Backcountry, another reason not to go camping!

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