A Savage Nature (2020)

Rating: D

Dir: Paul Awad
Star: Joanna Whicker, Steve Polites, Jon Hudson Odom, Joseph Carlson

Diner waitress Beth (Whicker) feels stifled in her marriage to ex-soldier Pete (Polites). While he’s now back from service, and works as a cop in the local force, he’s almost over-protective of her in their remote rural home. Everything changes one night, when two thugs, Doug (Odom) and J.B. (Carlson), who have previously harassed Beth at her job, show up on their doorstep. They report an accident involving a colleague of Pete’s, and he rushes to the rescue. To the audience’s complete lack of surprise, it turns out to be no accident, but a pretext for a home invasion. To this viewer’s complete lack of surprise, things are not as they initially seem.

Indeed, by the time the credits roll, there have been a couple of sharp changes in direction, though neither of them were entirely unexpected, and nor did they manage to provoke much of a reaction beyond a shrug of the shoulders. Part of the problem is the lengthy set-up to reach this point. It’s over thirty minutes before the thugs arrive at Beth and Pete’s home, and another fifteen after that before they put the “invasion” in home invasion. That’s more than half the film spent in largely fruitless efforts at creating an unnecessary atmosphere of menace. Hardly anyone here is more than a caricature: tired, blue-collar working woman; troubled ex-soldier; dominant thug; henchman. The sole exception is Pete’s colleague, and that’s only because he’s a black cop with the stereotypical disdain for civil rights.

As a result, it’s an uphill struggle to give a damn, with none of the characters particularly sympathetic. Initially, it feels like Beth is intended to fill the role, except one of the twists yanks the carpet out from under that particular conceit. I also should mention what seems like a huge spoiler on the sleeve: “One survivor.” Now, it’s not actually as bad as it seems, since this is echoed by a title at the very start. After rolling out the old “Inspired by true events” canard, it goes on to confirm, “There was only one survivor.” Except there is more than one. The final shot clearly tells us so, and the film flat out lies to the audience about that.

Misdirection is one thing, but when you have flat out to state things you know are not true, especially for the sake of a cheap shocker, it’s a sign your artistic fuel gauge is perilously close to empty. This kind of thing left me with a poor final impression – not that my impression over the previous eighty minutes had exactly been stellar, with a script which is rarely more than painfully contrived. For example, why does Pete take his badly injured colleague back to that remote, rural house, rather than – and I’m just spitballing here – a medical facility? So the movie can happen! On the whole, I have to confess I would have been perfectly fine with the movie not happening…