Brought to you by writer-director Paul Awad, A SAVAGE NATURE promises viewers what sounds like a pretty standard good time for a genre film. According to the film’s poster, the guarantees are “a hot August night, a brutal home invasion, and one survivor” – pretty familiar fare if you’ve watched much horror or suspense. Don’t let the simplicity of the tagline fool you, though. A SAVAGE NATURE may well leave you very surprised by the time the credits roll.
At the center of the storyline is soft-spoken, lonely waitress Beth Walker (Joanna Whicker). She’s married to war veteran and police officer Pete Walker (Steve Polites), and it’s their wedding anniversary, but Beth is feeling anything but excited. Although she seems to love and care about Pete, he is often distant and difficult to live with. However, Beth is bound and determined to heal her marriage, hopefully starting with an anniversary celebration to remember.
Beth’s day takes a turn for the worse when a couple of hoodlums – Doug (Jon Hudson Odom) and JB (Joseph Carlson) – come into the diner where she works and attempt to start trouble. Walt (Frank Riley III), a coworker of Pete’s and fellow cop, steps in and diffuses the situation. However, it’s not the last Beth will see of the unsavory pair. Doug and JB decide to turn up on her doorstep later on, interrupting her anniversary dinner with Pete and setting them up for a different type of evening.
At first glance, A SAVAGE NATURE definitely seems like typical horror-suspense fare. After all, it’s got all the essential boxes checked. You’ve got your sweet, frail, good-natured heroine – the perfect candidate for the role of “damsel in distress”. You’ve got a beautiful house in a remote location, a pair of menacing antagonists, and a husband you hope will be able to save the day when things go awry.
The standard suspense thriller set-up that drifts smoothly into home invasion territory is undoubtedly exactly what you’d suspect. This is especially the case since the film opens with a bang, showing Beth locked in a bathroom and preparing to defend herself before cutting away to show you how she wound up there. But A SAVAGE NATURE has a few tricks up its sleeve. There’s a big plot twist coming your way, and you won’t see it coming, even if you’ve seen your share of films like this.
Co-written with Kathryn O’Sullivan, Paul Awad’s script is snappy and airtight – the perfect accompaniment to his clean, appealing directing style. The performances here are also top-tier. Joanna Whicker is particularly excellent as the multi-faceted Beth. She sells every aspect of her role perfectly and is a joy to watch on screen.
Thanks to the writing, all of the characters are thoughtfully treated and presented as well-rounded human beings, which lends the film depth. A trim 83-minute run time and a minimal cast of characters wouldn’t usually leave much room for character development. But Awad uses dialogue to hint at checkered pasts, hidden motivations, or nuanced connections and leaves it up to the viewer to fill in the blanks. As a result, these are characters you might find yourself thinking more about as you watch the action unfold.
A SAVAGE NATURE is a terrific example of indie horror at its best. This film tackles familiar material but approached from interesting new angles that bring something fresh and entertaining to the table. There is enough violence and darkness to make it a true horror story, but the impact of the film isn’t dependent on them. Instead, the mainstays here are solid storytelling and focused acting.
A SAVAGE NATURE is now available on VOD and Digital via Gravitas Ventures.