Scads o’ movies look at the idea of Nature turning on us– The Birds, Day Of The Animals, hell, even Frogs. But what if, instead of the animals, it was the plants? And I don’t mean like Day Of The Triffids or The Ruins. No no, what if the plant world just unleashed some kinda natural toxin of its own loose and caused us to start acting really weird. Wouldn’t you pay to see a movie like that?
Well, a number of us thought that’s what we were doing back in 2008. Little did we know that the movie we paid for would turn out to be The Happening. It’s okay it’s okay! This post isn’t about that. Frankly I’m hurt that you thought I might inflict such a thing on y’all. Hmph.
But what would happen if you took that idea and made a good movie out of it? Or even a decent movie? Or even a half decent movie? Well look no further! From 2017 I present to you…
I think Norman Gidney over at Film Threat said it best:
Somewhere M. Night Shyamalan is probably studying this movie and shedding a few tears.
Ouch. It’s fair though. Flora is far from perfect, but the manner in which Sasha Louis Vukovic tackles this idea surpasses The Happening by an order of magnitude. Not that the bar is very high. Still, nicely done for a $100,000 budget.
Flora is set in 1929. A botanist, a cartographer, a cataloguer, and an illustrator walk into
a bar a forest. There’s a cook and a nurse along as well. Our ragtag band hits this remote woodscape to meet up with their mentor. They arrive at their professor’s camp only to discover that (gasp) he’s nowhere to be found! Don’t that just beat all? And the camp is in turmoil and disarray. And the supplies are wiped out. And there’s no animal or insect life around.
Naturally they *sigh* split the party. To be fair, it’s 1929. They’re a few decades out yet in terms of the horror tropes we now take for granted. It’s also a nice change from the hamfisted device of a character holding up a phone and lamenting that there’s no service.
I haven’t seen much in the way of press for this movie. 21 reviews on IMDB which are all over the place with what I think is a surprising amount of low ratings (Sidebar: I don’t actually read the IMDB reviews anymore. Even the favorable ones I find irritating and leaving me to wonder where some of these folks get their ethos of authority).
Vukovic does a fine job taking the slasher/monster element out of the “college kids lost in the woods” formula, but keeps a number of the other characteristics. Some of them lack any passing sense of self-preservation. They even bring a gramophone and illegal prohibition hooch. To the woods. As one does.
Don’t get me wrong–right now there’s people out there a-plenty who are dumb enough to do exactly the same thing. Otherwise you’d never see an RV also towing a car and hauling bikes, kayaks, and lawn furniture.
Still, there’s no stalking or hunting on the part of The Big Bad which, in this case, is actually The Little Bad. If the 1945 Mildred Pierce taught me anything, it’s that a cough is never just a cough, so we’re off to the races when the cartographer wakes up with a nosebleed. I’ll not explain any further so as to not spoil things for once, but I will add that tension level and dread stay pretty high.
Vukovic also takes full advantage of his surroundings. For some viewers, a shot here and there might linger a bit long, but it’s well worth lookin’ at. The forest-as-antagonist is as lovely as it is daunting, rendering the protagonists small by comparison. It’s an effect similar to the river in Deliverance or the terrain of Rituals.
The cast is more or less up to the acting task, some klunky lines and backstory here and there. I like the fact that the lead character is Ora Blackwood, a strikingly Sherilyn Fenn-looking (and maybe a little like Valerie Mahaffey from Northern Exposure) Teresa Marie Dornan. I can’t not go right to weird fiction author Algernon Blackwood. Not accidental surely.
So yeah…If you thought The Happening was a good idea led astray by bad companions, then Flora might be right up your alley. Or greenhouse. Or garden center. Or something.
BODIES- 5 onscreen, 1 off
Stream- Prime, Tubi, Vudu
Rent- Apple TV