I like horror films, but I prefer ones with practical effect monsters. Indigenous is a horror film available on Netflix currently. On the Netflix dashboard, I saw the little slide show of the monster licking the guy’s face, and I was like, “Hmm. I like that.” Then, I read the synopsis and saw the image of the hot people making out, and I was sold. So I watched it at once!
Is this movie scary? If you are afraid of a camera being shaken at bushes, then yes.
Shot by some sort of photographic genius (I am not joking) who apparently still uses auto-focus and has no qualms about shaking a camera at trees to pad run time, this movie follows five American tourists, and one Panamanian, who go down to a Panama jungle for a vacation and then four of them get eaten by a chupacabra. That’s pretty much it.
Why am I writing about it? Well, now that my Mozart book is finished and available for purchase, I want to make this blog about the things that interest me — and the things that the blog will be about going forward are, namely, photography, women in awesome dresses, shirtless dudes and monsters. And this movie has the first and the latter two for certain. Nobody really wears any clothes in this one, so there’s no costumes to comment on. But there is a very well done monster and some extremely good cinematography.
Let’s discuss the good and the bad things about this film.
- There are more bushes than you can shake a camera at. It worked in the first horror scene, after the false scare, where this woman was looking for this boy and she was hesitant to go into the jungle, because it was super dense, which is understandable. There’s a great shot of her confronting the jungle. So then the camera shook about as if it were her head looking in various places. However, the effect is repeated for the remaining five cast members for the duration and it is the only part of the photography that wasn’t working for me. Interestingly, this film was photographed by an excellent cinematographer who IMDB tells me is named Brendan Barnes. Nice light, wasn’t afraid to show a monster IN the light, which I like (it means they had a good monster) and good composition. There’s a scene at the bar which is mostly talking heads and dancing women which is very beautifully done. Lots of shots of attractive people making out.
- Speaking of which, the sex scenes were weirdly G rated. It actually caused me to pause and wonder about it. I mean, the movie does have some gore towards the end, so apparently it’s rated R, but I can’t really figure out why. Besides some gore and a general horror-y vibe, it really isn’t even a hard PG-13 in practice. The “sex” scenes are just really good pictures of very attractive people making out, then a large jump cut. Honestly, Disney’s Aladdin has more erotic scenes. I guess someone says something about a large penis at one point. That’s pretty R rated, yeah?
- It’s like the filmmakers had never been to an actual jungle. I know that horror film characters are generally stupid, and these ones are no exception. They split up, shine lights AT monsters, leave the women behind “to rest”, etc. But this one seems to extend to the filmmakers themselves. I know in Los Angeles you can drive 40 minutes and arrive at Topanga State Park then wander around for 45 minutes and come out the other side unscathed, but really forests in the actual world don’t work that way. The filmmakers seem to bring this “ease of use” into the jungles of Panama, where no one is expressly concerned that they’re lost. It’s like in a stage production, everyone runs in opposite ways into the jungle and then stumble across each other to have little scenes. I mean, the amount of times they lose each other and reunite is practically operatic. They might as well be singing arias about being lost and getting eaten by a chupacabra as they come and go. No one has an express goal to lead them out of the jungle, there are no trails anywhere, no landmarks because it’s all dense foliage. I can handle characters making stupid decisions, but when it bleeds out towards the filmmakers it’s kind of distracting. Like, the chupacabra, potentially, isn’t actually the scariest thing in a real jungle, and the filmmakers ignore all other perils as if the heroes are just running through a small state park.
- The first 30 minutes of the film is just people talking about food they ate and great photography. I kept actively thinking about Romeo & Juliet and how every line of dialog advances the plot and character development (except for the Queen Mab Speech, which is poetry and is forgiven for not being plot related). It’s so tightly written that if you remove bits of dialog, the rest of the story stops making sense. I urge all filmmakers to read Romeo & Juliet, and when you need to fill 30 minutes of run time in a horror film, remember that Shakespeare is public domain, and you can actually take the scenes from his plays, translate them to modern talking, and put them in your film. Boom! Likeable characters and you’ve padded your run time. Shakespeare wouldn’t even mind, because he actually used that technique in his own writing!
- The women are only there to be looked at and support the male characters, and they aren’t given any real dialog. When the boys are talking about the mystical jungle waterfall they will be visiting, one says,”Trevor, will this mythical waterfall make your penis any larger?” Trevor replies, “Oh, yeah, it’ll give you a huge penis, like a jumbo cock.” Giggle giggle. Couldn’t at least one woman also joke by saying, “Oh, no, honey, any bigger and I couldn’t take it.” Bam! Repartee. (By the way, I found myself inserting many lines of dialog while the film ran on.)
- A woman jumps over a twig and breaks her ankle so hardcore that it pops out of her skin. What the hell? Does she have avian bone syndrome?
- Everyone’s face is beautiful. Like, the main guy you could just look at for hours. He’s really fascinating looking. The internet says he is called Zachary Soetenga in real human life. I’d like to see that lady who owned the restaurant in a movie where she actually has to act. (I don’t know their names, I only came away knowing the douchey guy is named Trevor and everyone else I know based on the job they did back before the vacation) I kinda liked her, but she was sorely underused. The actress is called Sofia Pernas. She’s got a Sutton Foster vibe.
- The photography, which I have mentioned frequently, is good. He likes these people’s faces. He also seems to be using auto-focus, I can’t say for sure, but the focus drifts as the people move in close-up. I know low light causes this with movement, but I don’t know why they aren’t just using a focus puller. But with the help of the editor and director, no doubt, he also knows the proper duration to film a monster, and where to insert a monster into the frame where you can’t see it until it moves. Something that you will not miss, because the composer insists, very heartily, that you notice, with the help of very loud extraneous orchestral crashes. You will never question whether or not you saw a monster…. oh no, no, the composer simply will not allow it. You HAVE seen the monster and you WILL know it.
- These people don’t wear many clothes, and they are all very beautiful. It’s nice to see a filmmaker who knows that the medium is visual, and there’s really no aesthetic reason to show normal-to-unattractive people just because. The aesthetic is, perhaps, the most conscious effort put into making this film. Even as the film progresses and the lead guy’s hot brother and his attractive girlfriend are introduced sleeping in bed merely to further the plot back home, I’m okay with it. Like, I get it. I’m not being facetious. This film is based on the idea that people are hot and get chased by monsters. The mise-en-scene of hot people in a jungle seems to actually be given as much thought as the aesthetic of something like Prometheus, but contained within it’s low budget. Lots of horror films just point the camera at the actors and hope for the best.
- The Monster is quite well done. It’s not anything new. I mean, it’s pretty much the monster from Pandorum without clothes on. But it is well done. It looks scary, it moves scary. It has nice monster effects and little details. For example, it has a long bat-like tongue. Bat-tongues are long and use a “pumping technique” to funnel liquid up to the mouth. In the film the news calls the chupacabra a “blood-sucker” but that’s all the backstory we get on it, and I love that the monster designer used actual animal references to make it a more realistic blood sucking creature. From what we know of the thing, it actually behaves very much like a bat. The only issue I have is that it seems perfectly content staying up just as late as the humans. I mean, they’re staying up all night and day because they’re running FROM the monster. There’s no reason the monster shouldn’t take an occasional break for rest an relaxation. It’s not like there’s a pressing need to kill ALL the young people. He’s got at least four by the time midnight comes around. Guess he’s just a workaholic.
- The hero gets all of his heart’s desires simply by being a victim. So, good for him! That’s right, he Harry Potter’s his way to the top. And what’s interesting is that it’s fully fleshed out from beginning to end. He makes a new app that updates all social media at once through face recognition. He goes on a trip where he hopes to test it. He gets to test it when he is getting chased by a monster and his cell service is bad. It posts to all his friends and family, like his hot brother. The people on Youtube watch it. It gets 7 dislikes and 8 million shares. (I was secretly hoping for a shot of the comment section that read “Fake!” or “Gaaaaaay.” but realistic Youtube comments might have ruined the tension the filmmakers were hoping for. They opted for “OMG WTF” and “i c dead ppl”) Then the media sends out reporters to cover the event and in that operatic fashion I mentioned earlier, they run right to the place on the stage where the survivors are. Then it is revealed in the closing news segment that Cryptids are real thanks to this boy’s footage. That means, in the context of the film, he will sell his app, which works, and become a renowned monster expert due to being the first human to capture an actual visible shot of a cryptid in the wild! So, like, that sounds almost like a better movie than the one we just watched. I wonder if they removed the 30 minutes of surfing and talking about food at the beginning and gave us 30 minutes of him dealing with his success, it might have been better drama. But, also, it wouldn’t have been the movie the filmmakers intended to make.
Things that go in between Pros and Cons
- Spoiler alert. Trevor, the douchey guy with hella ripped veins, gets two full death scenes. The first one is vaguely scary in the found footage way, but when he is dragged back to the lair he gets a full on second death. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I was kinda rooting for him to die. I wonder if you could stage a horror film where the douchey guy is the only person who gets killed, but the whole film is just people running around while an endless set up of scary scenarios are narrowly survived by the douchey guy until the end where he super gets it? This movie shows us that you can sustain it twice. I’ll be watching for a movie that fake kills someone just one more time before I get my results in.
So, did I like this movie? It doesn’t really work as competent drama, because while the actors are believable as friends and lovers, they don’t do much that stirs any emotions. I guess Trevor does have a lot of gushing from his mouth when he’s distressed in the second-death, and I applaud him for going all in. As horror it is passable in that it has some cool monster shots ruined by the composer’s orchestral crashes, and a nicely done monster. There is a nice horror scene where the lead follows Trevor as he’s dragged into the cave, and realizes he’s in too deep when his flashlight goes out. As it flickers on and off, the monster shows up behind him. Though, it raises the question of why he’s the only person who is put in arms reach of the monster that doesn’t have his face eaten, but maybe the monster had to file paperwork first, before each kill, and he didn’t get it done for the lead until the final attack. Overall it’s very beautifully cast and shot. I think it would be a fun one to watch with friends and make jokes about. It’s fun. A lot of these B-horror films are intolerable, but this one is cute. It’s got some really fun stuff stacked at the end that friends could totally enjoy riffing on and making fun of, like the avian-bone ankle-break, the great licking tongue and the delightfully eye-roll inducing event with the girl and the rescue-helicopter. I don’t want to spoil it. Watch it with friends and discover it for yourself.
I also hope the cinematographer keeps working and honing his craft. I see no reason why he shouldn’t get steady work.