Unnatural follows scientists at a research facility in the Alaskan wilderness who are working on a way to genetically adapt polar bears to the rapid climate changes in the area. When a bear goes rogue and escapes the facility, one scientist manages to get out in time. She runs into the owner of a remote hunting lodge, where a photographer and his models are staying for a photo shoot, and in their attempts to help her, they are all put right into the bear’s path of destruction.
Returning from a five-year hiatus and with a new partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, the After Dark Horrorfest is back with a new crop of “8 Films to Die For.” All the films were released in select theaters and on VOD October 16, 2015, with a DVD release date of October 27, 2015.
Unnatural offers much in both its location and its cast. The movie was filmed on location in Alaska, giving the story a real sense of place and reality to the situation. There’s no mistaking the fact that these characters are totally isolated and cut off from everybody else, and that there is no one else around to help them. The snowy atmosphere gives Unnatural a beautiful starkness that allows the filmmakers to really take advantage of the location with gorgeous wide shots and overhead views of the landscape. I also really enjoy movies that take place in this kind of setting because the environment becomes an added obstacle for the characters. The freezing temperatures and knee-deep snow don’t make it any easier for them to just run away from the situation.
The cast is also a plus. There is a definite difference between the two groups of characters–the people who run the lodge, and the photographer, his assistant, and his two models. James Remar plays Martin, who lives and works at the lodge, and he provides a rugged, stoic quality to his character that makes you believe and trust him, as does the fact that he is always the first person to get out there and help somebody. Ron Carlson as the photographer, Brooking is an insensitive and unlikable guy from the beginning, but he also makes no apologies about it, which is refreshing and often funny. Allegra Carpenter and Ivana Korab often play to the stereotype of sheltered models in a situation out of their element, but when things get bad, they become much more real and sympathetic. Sherilyn Fenn is Dr. Hanna Lindval, and her performance is one that is sympathetic, but there is also a hint of something else going on beneath the surface. Knowing her background, though, the audience is still unsure if she is hiding feelings of guilt or shame, or something more sinister.
Also See: Suspension [8 Films to Die For Review]Where the movie falters a little bit is that the story unfolds as a very run-of-the-mill action film. It doesn’t feel like they are trying to do anything different, or even say anything about the main topic of the movie that the audience doesn’t already know. When science messes with nature, even if it comes with good intentions, things always turn out wrong, and there are countless movies that are a testament to this. Unnatural didn’t even really have to bring this element to the story at all–if it was just a movie about a killer bear, I think it would have been fine. But because not too much background information is given about the people who did this, it just feels unnecessary.
In spite of its shortcomings, Unnatural is not a badly constructed movie. There are some good surprise moments, and very tense and suspenseful scenes where the characters are separated from each other and you don’t know from where the next attack will be coming. The director does a wonderful job with keeping the bear mostly hidden from view for a good portion of the movie, and it is especially nice to see real, practical bear effects for the key scenes when it is eating somebody or bursting through a window.
Unnatural is not necessarily bad, nor is it great in its execution, it’s a movie that is very middle of the road. It’s a good watch for the actors and the change of pace that it offers in its setting, but there is nothing particularly groundbreaking about it.
WICKED RATING: 5/10
Director: Hank Braxtan
Writer: Arch Stanton, Ron Carlson
Stars: James Remar, Sherilyn Fenn, Ron Carlson
Studio/ Production Co: August Heart Entertainment, After Dark Films
Length: 89 minutes
Sub-Genre: Creature feature