Flora

In 1929, an expedition of university botanists enters an uncharted forest where they discover and must escape an ancient organism.

It is amazing what a limited budget and intelligent filmmaking can accomplish. In writer, director, producer Sasha Louis Vukovic’s new thriller Flora, we see him turn the unexplored wilderness into an untamed beast with the help of a great setting, a compelling story, and serviceable acting.

The time is 1929. A cartographer, an illustrator, a botanist, and a cataloguer set forth into the northeastern wilderness to rendezvous with their professor for some good old-fashioned exploring. The four academics are accompanied by a nurse and a cook who round out the team with basic support.  When the team of six finally arrives at their professor’s camp at dusk, the site is abandoned. Furthermore, the supplies have been destroyed and the rations are all but gone, aside from four days with of sealed food. Unsure of where their host is, they settle in for the night and begin to booze it up a bit. They even crank up the Gramophone for some swing music.

Unlike other nature against invasive mankind movies, this one feels wholly believable…”

Of course, they wake up only to find they are still alone. It is then that they begin to worry. As half of the team decides to search for their professor at a nearby abandoned mining town, the other three make grim discoveries around the campsite. The cook hasn’t found a single squirrel to boil up for dinner, nor has he noticed any other wildlife, much less insects. The first act of the film ends with the realization that the fecund forest has become a territorial monster, dominating the landscape. The team must escape before Mother Nature’s pissed off pasture kills them off too.

Somewhere M. Night Shyamalan is probably studying this movie and shedding a few tears. Unlike other nature against invasive mankind movies, this one feels wholly believable. What helps is Vukovic’s seemingly arbitrary decision to set the film in 1929. In doing so there is still a sense of mystery to the endless horizons of flora, in a menacing way even.  

“…gets plenty of mileage out of the acres of forest…the shots are too pretty to interrupt.”

The film is not without problems though. For one thing, it is entirely too long. Moments are held when they should only occupy mere seconds. Revelations and plot points are occasionally repeated to the point of noticeable repetition. Flora would have greatly benefited from a good editor with the ability to argue the efficiency of the plot with Vukovic. Another issue is the occasional misstep in performance choices.  Things are spotty in the acting department, but not enough to really derail to picture.

Closing out on a positive note, this movie looks like a million bucks. The film gets plenty of mileage out of the acres of forest. You can almost understand why the film is so long; the shots are too pretty to interrupt. I honestly look forward to more work from Sasha Louis Vukovic. The components for a fine movie are here, and with a story idea this solid, he is bound to have more. Maybe he could remake Signs and show M. Night how to pull off serendipity.

Flora (2018) Written and directed by Sasha Louis Vukovic. Starring Teresa Marie Doran, Dan Lin, Caleb Noel, Sari Mercer, Will Aaron.

5 out of 10 stars

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