11th Aug2021

‘A Savage Nature’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Joanna Whicker, Steve Polites, Jon Hudson Odom, Joseph Carlson, Frank Riley III, Rayanne Gonzales | Written by Paul Awad, Kathryn O’Sullivan | Directed by Paul Awad

A lonely waitress is desperate to escape her small town and repair her marriage to her deputy sheriff husband. On the evening of their wedding anniversary, the troubled couple attempts to make a fresh start, but things take an unexpected turn when sinister strangers invade their home. As the night unfolds, loyalties shift, secrets spill, and lives shatter.

Wow. Just wow. Just when you thought A Savage Nature was headed down all too familiar home invasion territory it takes a left turn and everything you thought the film was going to be is changed… then it takes ANOTHER turn and everything you thought the film was going to be is changed again…

Which makes the film incredibly hard to review without spoiling it.

This is, honestly, the kind of film you’d be better off going into without any knowledge. Even saying that the film twists and turns is enough to possibly affect your viewing of it. Mainly because A Savage Nature is not just a home invasion thriller. Its a character study of small town life; how the day to day mundanity can affect people; can drive them to, in this case, become savage in the pursuit of feeling something, having something and being something.

Thankfully the film has a stellar cast that can carry the subtleties needed for such a tale. Joanna Whicker, who plays waitress Beth, is not only central to the films story but her performance is central to why the films duplicitous plot works. She brings a nuanced performance to her role that hides a complex person under the surface of what starts out as your usual “final girl” trope but evolves and reveals a much more than the timid waitress she starts out as – in fact the character is one of the more complicated I’ve seen in a genre film in a long time. And the fact the changes in the character, the reveals about Beth’s nature, all seem totally plausible and believeable is all down to Whicker’s perfect performance.

The villains of the film, Doug (Jon Hudson Odom) and J.B. (Joseph Carlson), also start out as cliched, stereotypical backwoods macho-men types. Guys who think they’re in control of any situation – you know the type. Doug is the Alpha of the pack, while J.B. seems more subservient. It’s a pairing we’ve seen a myriad of times in genre cinema but one that – when done well as it is here – works well. Interestingly, given Beth’s hidden layers, it also turns out Doug is also more complicated than he first appears…  And again, like Whicker, Odom brings a similar level of subtlety to his role.

That subtlety is matched in the direction and the script, which both let the story unfold very organically, never forcing any plot points and never signposting any of the twists and turns. Instead pulling the rug from under the audience, actually offering viewers true surprises. Which is refreshing change for a genre film these days. And A Savage Nature is just that… Refreshing. A change from the typical indie horror fare, this is a film that takes familiar cliches and stereotypes and subverts them at every turn; making this film a must-see!

****½  4.5/5

A Savage Nature is available on digital and on demand now.


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