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

4 responses to “Flora

  1. This film is very interesting, I love history movies. I would like to know if this is based on a true story? Just one important thing at the end of the movie, we would like to see how she picked up by the train, that’s a proper ending of the movie. No further discussion. Well done, by the way!

  2. My only complaint if you want to call it is; the film takes place in 1929. All costumes and styles are correct but one.
    The actor who plays “The Hunter” looks like he went back in time from the 1980’s to the 1920’s. He has long Curley hair and a beard. Definitely does not belong in the movie,

  3. It was overall a good movie, particularly if you account for budget. Just about everyone in it doubled as a producer or artistic director, etc., so that may have limited the acting potential. Ora was very definitely an Official Acting School Graduate, and when she gets over show how well she learned to act and just …. acts, her emotions will read a lot more realistically. I think she will, though. I didn’t find it overly long, and the forest does the best acting and art direction of anyone…. the lengthy shots of a branch or particular tree got long, though, it was so much focusing on one… tree… one…. branch…. that I felt every time like it was about to DO something besides, you know…. tree. Puff out pollen like a vape-ing teen? Rub its branches together with a sinister glee like an arboreal Mr. Burns? But no. There were some neat things to learn about nature, and whoever drew the comic-type art should have been better credited. It was some of the coolest stuff in the movie, and it was obvious that Ora didn’t do it because she would obviously just draw over the same straight line over and over like “This.. needs just…. 7 or 8 more layers of graphite to be…. yes! Perfect.” In one scene you can see the paper of the drawn part is utterly different than the comic book lettering and her wrist is lying awkwardly over it to try and cover it up. Not the biggest thing but it drew away any submersion in a film that was pro at it to begin with. The one guy in random Levis from the mall was hard to take because while they had denim then…. I mean… they had a tag on the back. But small costuming issues overall, whoever lent the props did them a service. That really helped. Overall, I’d see whatever this director makes next. I hope the actors have opportunities to continue developing their chosen craft as well.

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