- 1h 41min
As the new kid, a shy high school senior finds himself tormented by all his peers except one, but his new friend has a dark, infectious outlook.As the new kid, a shy high school senior finds himself tormented by all his peers except one, but his new friend has a dark, infectious outlook.As the new kid, a shy high school senior finds himself tormented by all his peers except one, but his new friend has a dark, infectious outlook.
Our protagonist, Tyler, who I will henceforth refer to as Mr. Vanilla, is the new kid at a school full of more-annoying-than-usual-teenagers and a security force comprising of only Anthony Michael Hall (who, unsurprisingly, is by far the best actor here and actually gives a believable solid performance). Mr. Vanilla inexplicably befriends his polar opposite, a little stinker whose parents clearly don't love him because they named him Indrid. While their friendship begins over Indrid saving Mr. Vanilla from some (foot)balls in the face (not kidding, they even refer to it as this in the movie), their connection is absolutely baffling. Mr. Vanilla is a bland drone who has some redeeming but painfully by-the-book "heroic" qualities. Contrarily, Indrid is bursting with personality. He's a beguiling character, always starting shenanigans, giving delightfully over-dramatic speeches about natural selection, and causing chaos in an otherwise bland movie. This made him by far my favorite character of the film. With the exception of one scene where Indrid is confrontational with Mr. Vanilla's mother for literally NO reason the first time they meet, his qualms with his peers are understandable and relatable for anyone who has ever lived through childhood, and the viewer begins hoping that Indrid pulls through while these other terrible kids get their comeuppance.
...Which clearly should NOT be the movie's intent, considering Indrid is the *potential* school shooter. Somehow, this movie breathed so much life into its antagonist while making every other character either bland or downright despicable that I rooted for the very person it wanted me to pity and dislike.
Natural Selection also wastes too much time sneaking a teen romance in the mix between Mr. Vanilla and Paige (AKA Little Miss Perfect, or LMP). There was little reason for this to be in the film other than to pad the run-time (director Scheifele already directed a short film by the same name in 2009, seven years before this released, so it's possible he searched for new subplots to throw in the mix). Indrid does have issues with LMP and sabotages the budding relationship every chance he gets (to which I cheered), but otherwise her contribution was minimal.
Natural Selection also suffers from some issues that many films with a lower budget suffer from. Namely sound issues (odd levels of focus between foreground and background sound during outdoor scenes, and I swore Mr. Vanilla's mother's sigh in one early scene was recorded and repeated four times in a row), odd music choices, cringy dialogue, and bad acting. Mr. Vanilla's mother was sometimes painful to watch. Mr. Vanilla himself wasn't very good, but I could see he gave a solid effort. Ryan Munzert (Indrid) looked like he was having fun and was charismatic and cynical enough to be an absolute blast to watch, but not once did I feel he was dangerous despite all the film's foreshadowing. At best, he seemed like a little stinker, but that's what made this film entertaining enough to finish. Lastly, the ending was an absolute non-ending. It was actually so bad that I remember coming across it within the last few years as a separate clip on YouTube and being absolutely underwhelmed even without seeing the movie. Well, now I have, and the ending's still bad. It's just there to supply a quick mandatory resolution and give everyone a quick happy ending (except for Little Stinker, unfortunately).
Oh...last thing. There was this really weird Christian tilt throughout the film that made me wonder if this movie was originally intended to be marketed to Christian-only audiences. Multiple times throughout the film Indrid talks about the Christian God almost as if he's angry at a deity he doesn't appear to believe in (which doesn't realistically mesh with how most atheists and/or agnostics arrive to their conclusions). There's also a Christian program with a preacher that apparently everyone watches; Indrid is shown watching and mocking it at one point, while its message is on in the background when Mr. Vanilla is preparing for a heroic moment, which felt like proselytizing with convenient timing. I'm not completely sure this was intended to beat the viewer over the head, but it was definitely noticeable.
Overall, I don't regret my time with Natural Selection. It entertained me, but not in the way I expected. Is it so-bad-it's-good? Meh. Kind of. I wouldn't recommend this over classics like The Room or Birdemic, but it certainly never bored me.
- Sep 19, 2019