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Film Reviews: 'Strange Nature' a story of nature run amok

'Strange Nature' is yet another in the endless number of horror/science fiction films that depict nature's revenge on man. This one focuses on a company that uses organic components which stimulate algae growth and throw the environment out of balance -- a nifty twist here is that even an environmentally-conscious company can cause problems.

The film features washed-up, scandalized former pop star Kim Sweet (Lisa Sheridan) who moves to Minnesota with her son (Jonah Beres) to live with her ailing, eccentric father (Carlos Alazraqui), in the film's best performance). During her stay, she discovers deformities in the local frog population that hint at possible environmental imbalance caused by a population explosion of parasite-carrying snails.

The culprit may be a prominent pesticide company that fuels the local economy. The environmental changes may also have created a monster responsible for several disappearances.

The film bears more than a passing resemblance to John Frankenheimer's environmentally-themed 1978 horror film prophecy, although it is definitely a better film. The good intentions of the production, good low-budget special effects and decent acting keep the film watchable.

The competent but sometimes bland acting and production values made the film seem like a violent Lifetime Channel movie at times -- tear-jerking subplots involving the family woes of the characters reinforce this impression.

The film's climax jumps between two subplots -- a violent confrontation at one house and a mutant attack at another. It seems convoluted in parts but delivers solid thrills.

The film also resorts to a few well worn horror tropes -- brutal rednecks, deformed locals, spineless bureaucrats, xenophobic townies and anxiety about pregnancy appear in it.

Writer/director James Ojala predictably exploits Sheridan's good looks at every turn - this and her political activism make the film seem like 'Erin Brokovich' with monsters.

Although 'Strange Nature' does not transcend being a low-budget monster movie in the manner that it attempts, it remains an admirable near-miss. Horror fans that enjoy a hint of realism and social commentary should enjoy it.

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