OK, I’ll cut to the chase here.

When I get a press release asking me to check out a screener for a film billed as mutant frogs versus a former wrestler, veteran character actor Stephen Tobolowsky and Lisa Sheridan (complete with a few exclamation marks) I’m expecting a slice of grade-A schlock.

So when I don’t get that schlock (at least for the first hour) I’m not quite sure what to make of it all – that’s not to say Strange Nature is a particularly bad film (it isn’t), but it is far, far removed from what I expected.

In fact, for the first two thirds of the film the movie is played pretty straight – sort of a modern updating of Erin Brockovich with a few deformed amphibians thrown in for good measure.

Sheridan steps into the ‘Julia Roberts’ role playing Kim Sweet, an 80s pop star returning to her run-down hometown many years later to spend some time with her ailing dad. Before long though Sweet stumbles across a handful of deformed frogs and reckons something dodgy is going on, mainly down to some chemicals being pumped out by a local pharmaceutical company.

Naturally nobody believes her, whether they be the town’s mayor (Tobolowsky) or the local rednecks and lowlifes, led by Sam (played by wrestler-turned-actor John Hennigan). All that changes though when it is not just frogs turning up deformed but the human population, including newborns…

As said, for the first hour or so Strange Nature is played incredibly straight, although there are a handful of tantalising glimpses where it seems some self-awareness is in evidence – take a scene at the mayor’s office for example, where Tobolowsky trots out a Jaws mayor-esque ‘we cannot have the town in a panic’ speech, leaving Sweet to mutter ‘you’re like one of those movie mayors…’

But then, with about 20 minutes remaining, director James Ojala (making his feature debut) seems to remember who’s likely to be actually watching the film and throws in a helter-skelter, gloopy closing third that ladles on the gore and has Sweet and co facing off against all sorts of mutated beastlies.

Credit where credit is due, Sheridan is on good form here, anchoring the film well and carrying off the emotional content impressively. Bruce Bohne as Sweet’s father Chuck also gets a thumbs-up, with the pair sharing some real chemistry in their scenes together. The likes of Hennigan, Tobolowsky, Tiffany Shepis and Faust Checho round out a solid cast, with very little in the way of duff performances.

To conclude, there really isn’t that much wrong with Strange Nature and when it finally goes crazy in the closing scenes you are likely to be entertained. Whether you have stuck with the film at that point is another matter…

Movie Review: Strange Nature
2.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle