Raunchy teen comedies are often maligned by moviegoers of good taste who make the mistake of equating lowbrow humor with low entertainment value. But the meaningless vulgarity which characterizes the genre should be celebrated, as there is something utterly sublime in their shameless commitment to the offensive. In fact, the best of these movies are barren of any substance, although a few exceptions do exist – the most famous of which is “Superbad,” the 2007 cult classic that manages to reach glorious highs of puerility, while maintaining an emotional core.
“Freaks of Nature” tries to follow in the footsteps of “Superbad,” but fails miserably in its own attempt to meld mindless gross-out humor with heart. While the first half of the horror-comedy –a nonstop barrage of gore and double-entendres – is gold, the rest of the film is garbage, bloated with faux teen angst and cloying, rote messages of positivity.
Despite the plot’s ultimate unraveling, the general structure of the film is professional and easy to understand. Director Robbie Pickering must know that in B-movies, simplicity almost always trumps convolution. Nobody wants to be bored with the particulars of a story about naked, horny teenagers fighting off an alien invasion.
That really is the plot of “Freaks.” The sleepy town of Dillford, Ohio – known only for its processed meat factory and resident population of vampires and zombies – is thrown into chaos when a fleet of flying saucers appears in the night sky, and only a trio of high school misfits can save the day. The three protagonists are played by young, unknown actors who possess varying degrees of talent, as undead friends Petra (Mackenzie Davis) and Ned (Josh Fadem) deliver solid performances, while Nicholas Braun’s performance as protagonist Dag is downright atrocious.
The true star of this film is Keegan-Michael Key as manic high school teacher Mr. Keller. Appearing all too briefly as a supporting character, the “Key & Peele” star makes the most out of what little screen time he has, spewing lines of dialogue with the hysteria of a madman. Patton Oswalt also turns in a small but notable performance as slimy survivalist Stuart Miller, and Bob Odenkirk of “Better Call Saul” is satisfyingly wacky as Dag’s perpetually stoned father, Shooter.
Vanessa Hudgens appears as Lorelei, the archetypal bad girl whom the hero of the film is obliged to lust after. As her name would suggest, she is a crazed man-eater – albeit with a love for marijuana and a distaste for clothing. Befittingly, even Hudgens’ performance is recycled: for all intents and purposes, she simply reprises her role of Candy from the 2012 pseudo-trash release “Spring Breakers.”
Potential moviegoers can save both their time and money by steering clear of “Freaks of Nature,” a film that starts out strong, but chokes when rote themes of friendship and community are pounded into the storyline with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Audiences don’t go to see this type of movie to feel uplifted; they go to immerse themselves in exploitative nonsense, which this film doesn’t have enough of.