For Article Wednesday, we are going to do a Preview Review and take a look at a creature feature trailer for Unnatural. Creature features and monster movies are a particular favorite of Efrit and I, as they tend to boast the most creativity in effects and story, at least when done correctly. It is often just as exciting watching the methods the director chose to use to deliver his monster as the rest of the film. We don't always need a to see a quality movie to get great cinema.
Preview Review: Unnatural
By far the most interesting aspect of this trailer is the complete lack of use of CGI and/or actual bear footage. A few films have been able to pull off real-animal footage to create suspense and horror successfully. The Edge, Burning Bright, and The Ghost and the Darkness are movies that initially come to mind. But this old-as-stop-motion-animation method is often a better idea on paper than on film with today's effects options. While it is still generally better than CGI on low-budget films, Into the Grizzly Maze proved that real animal footage can be as terrible as imposing a cartoon into the frame.
But this film, at least from the trailer, appears to be bypassing both the CGI and real footage routes, and going with practical effects, animal suits, and animatronics to give us our monstrous bear. From what we can see, the method will come with mixed results. There are clearly going to be moments where our practical effects are going to show their budget. The bear's motion in open frame is going to be painfully fake, where on the other hand we might get some much more visceral moments of suspense in close-up action pieces.
I commend the bravery of the film. They went the practical effects route, despite their budget probably not promising enough fuel to give a good product without some impressive ingenuity. It would appear the film is going to deliver inconsistently on this front, but nevertheless the effort is appreciated. Sometimes when an animatronic monster looks different from the animal it is mimicking (Jaws is the greatest example) it actually adds to the fear factor, because your mind sees something familiar, but unnervingly unclassifiable. It bridges the thought processes in your mind between real and imaginary, which can have some terrifying effects. I doubt we are talking such successful horror attributes here, but it could prove an interesting take we haven't seen in a while.
Despite providing a fork in the road as to the origins of our monster bear, neither route would be particularly original. The monster killer bear trope has been done before from pretty much every conceivable angle. Yet, there is something about the bear, perhaps its overwhelming gerth, its habitat blending with many suburban areas, or simply it's the largest predator Americans can relate to when filmmakers are picking a dangerous creature. But when you aren't going big cat or in the ocean, the bear is your best shot...unless of course we start talking ooze-altered zombie beavers...