“Freaks of Nature” is about a small town where humans live together with zombies and vampires, however their cohabitation falls apart when aliens arrive on Earth. It starred such prominent actors as Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Bob Odenkirk, Keegan Michael-Key and the voice of Bavarian filmmaker Werner Herzog, as well as Tulsa native Josh Fadem. Fadem is a Booker T. Washington graduate who has been in 30 Rock as Liz Lemon’s agent and, more recently, as Joey Dixon in the AMC series “Better Call Saul.”
The film was produced by Columbia/Sony Pictures, but suffered a limited release in 2014 with no press surrounding it, as a result of a previous scandal surrounding the Sony film “The Interview,” which had been greenlit by the same executives.
Originally pitched under the name “Kitchen Sink,” the film really did have everything—teen drama, vampires, zombies, aliens and even werewolves (though not until the very end). With that being said, it also had all the obnoxious tropes and juvenile humor that come with teen drama and supernatural horror/comedies. What I mean to say is that “Freaks of Nature” was obviously created to do well with a tone-deaf high school audience. Most of the jokes center around a boy losing his virginity, and there are several ableist and sexist jokes (zombies taking the short bus? Who thought that was a good idea?), making it obvious that the creators didn’t have a socially-aware audience in mind when writing them.
Though the movie was built around offensive jokes and teen film stereotypes, one thing it did well was its play on supernatural genres, and the question “What if vampires and zombies lived with humans?”. One of the main characters gets bitten by a vampire at a party early on, and spends the rest of the movie wrestling with feelings of shame and self-loathing after one night’s mistake has left her permanently changed.
On the one hand it seems like a pretty old-fashioned message about girls protecting their chastity, but the movie is actually pretty sympathetic to the character, and what initially seemed like it was going to be another tone-deaf, victim-blaming joke ended up being more about society’s tendency to place labels on girls who appear un-chaste. This plot point also addresses dangerous relationships and what it’s like to be a victim of a sexual predator.
However, what might have been the one redeeming part of the film ended in a pretty derivative punchline when another character, the school’s sweetheart, gets bitten and makes a joke about her boobs getting bigger as a result.
All in all, “Freaks of Nature” is a pretty subpar movie, but the Circle Cinema’s showing of the movie was a neat attempt to highlight Tulsa natives in Hollywood. Fadem, who starred in the movie alongside Nicholas Braun and Mackenzie Davis, held a Q&A session after Sunday’s matinee showing.
The movie ran for a week at the Circle, as part of an ongoing series highlighting Tulsans in film.