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‘Indigenous’ is a humdrum creature feature

‘Indigenous’ is a humdrum creature feature

Indigenous Poster

Written by Max Roberts
Directed by Alastair Orr
USA, 2014

Alastair Orr’s latest film, Indigenous, is a tropical creature feature about a group of hot American tourists who get lost in the Panamanian jungle and hunted by a mysterious beast. While the film won’t make it onto any of 2015’s top ten horror movies lists, Indigenous’ choice in movie monster and haunting setting make for a film just slightly outside of the standard scary movie norm.

Indigenous utilizes a familiar horror movie template. The film centers on a group of American twenty-somethings — they’re as vapid as they are hot — getting together to party it up one last time before the harsh responsibilities of the adult world transform them into Dockers-wearing, minivan-driving lame-o’s forever. The group travel down to Panama, and early on in their trip everything is aces. The weather is hot, the booze is plentiful, and everywhere they turn beautiful half-naked bodies writhe and grind in slow motion as if they’re in a late 90’s Puff Daddy video. Shockingly, all the beer chugging, high-fiving, Real World Panama antics just feels too familiar (even with paradise as a backdrop), and the pack of dude-bros decide to venture out into the Panamanian jungle for some thrill seeking. Unbeknownst to the group, there is a preternatural man-beast lurking in the jungle, one that understands horror movie tropes well enough to decapitate the only local amongst the group first. Lost in the Panamanian jungle with nightfall encroaching, the group finds themselves hunted by a bloodthirsty creature that defies explanation.

Indigenous 01

Indigenous pulls a major feint straight out the gates. The film kicks off utilizing the found footage style made famous by The Blair Witch Project, before switching it up and shooting the next 95% of the film in a traditional cinematic format. Initially it seems that Indigenous has something unique up its sleeve, taking time early on to make the audience aware of Scott’s (Zachary Soetenga) start-up company — a mobile tech that integrates facial recognition with social media. Instead, Scott’s tech is only applied as a deus ex machina story device that moves the plot forward in the final act, and it contextualizes the found footage format Indigenous uses during its opening segment.

The mystical creature (and the film’s antagonist) known as the chupacabra has existed on the periphery of the pop culture spotlight for the past twenty years. There is an intriguing mythology surrounding the creature that incorporates theories ranging from it being everything from a cryptozoological bloodsucker to a sinister alien hybrid. Given the plethora of strange avenues the film could have explored, Indigenous‘ worst offense is an inability to deviate from its textbook monster-in-the-woods horror movie format.

Sometimes people’s expectations of their horror movie entertainment experiences are the same as those for a pair of well-worn sweatpants; people just want to slip into something comfortable and familiar. Indigenous allows viewers to sit back and let an easily digestible horror movie plot wash over them — Martyrs, this film is not. Indigenous features a disposable group of attractive people getting picked off by a creepy monster, in a terrifying setting. Alastair Orr filmed Indigenous on location in the Panamanian jungle, and the incredible setting alone creates a palpable sense of dread. The overgrown foliage below the dense jungle canopy creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, a place where even the sun’s intense equatorial rays can’t penetrate. There is a foreboding gloom cast over all of the jungle scenes, and it becomes apparent how accustomed audiences have grown to the weaksauce British Columbia forest substitutes they’re bombarded with in most films and TV shows. The creature itself is horrifying, at least until it reveals itself in broad daylight. However, monster makeup looking whack in bright light is standard, in even big budget films — movie Batman doesn’t choose to lurk in the shadows because of photodermatitis.

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Indigenous is solid if unspectacular B-movie fare. The film gets points for incorporating the severely underutilized chupacabra mythology, but loses points for unoriginality in every other area. Sometimes average is just what people want (there’s a slew of long running procedural television clones backing this point up), and if that’s the case, then Indigenous is the perfect item on the horror movie menu. Those looking to spend 90-minutes with a horror movie that leaves a lasting impression will have to look elsewhere.