When plans for a weekend vacation hit a dead end, a group of close-knit friends find themselves trapped in unfamiliar territory, pursued by a menacing, bloodthirsty predator. Holed up in an isolated cabin, tensions mount as long-buried secrets are revealed. As the body count rises, the group must put their differences aside and fight for survival.
Animal is a survival horror picture that favors style over substance. The nameless creature that stalks human through the woods for food is actually quite a unique design. With its outward stretched jaw, long teeth and interesting skin texture, the Animal (I seriously wish it had a better name) is a well-designed monster. He’s even presented properly in that we see just enough of him from a distance and in the darkness to be an effective terror of the great outdoors.
That is why it is such a disappointment to see a monster like this wasted in a standard monster-in-the-woods picture. The plot seems quickly slapped together just to showcase the monster itself. Five college students of a-typical personalities assemble to hike and camp in the woods. There’s the strong one, the prissy one, the black one, the extra boyfriend and the gay guy. All of them fulfill their roles for as much character development that is required before the animal finds them, chases them and eats them. While running for their lives, they run across a cabin in the woods with another group being hunted by the predator. Trapped in the house, the group has to figure out a way to stop the beast less they panic and start killing each other.
If the whole trapped-in-a-cabin scenario actually had some decent characters to follow, it could actually be competent and fun to follow. But the actors are given roles far too straight where we’re never given enough to be engaged. None of them are particularly bad, but none are memorable either. Everybody just sort of plays their part in the predictable story. There’s some love-triangle confessions thrown into mix, but only as a means of filling time. Do we really care that the gay guy had a secret relationship with the strong guy when we didn’t really have enough time to know any of them?
Every scene with the human characters are just a bore and leave you pining for the monster to come back. When the monster does finally decide to pop in, it’s a well-produced delight of practical effects and blood. Most of the death scenes comes without warning and characters are killed off in a rather unlikely order. It’s also pretty neat trying to follow along with our human characters trying to decipher how the monster hunts and what he learns about trying to make his way into the cabin. The monster becomes far more entertaining and subtle than the human characters even when he’s not on screen. You actually start rooting for him to score some dinner.
From a plot angle, Animal is much more admirable for what it doesn’t do. Too often do these horror vacation pictures go for the sex-crazed couples who drink and smoke weed until their dumb enough to be slaughtered by any nearby animals. The college kids of this picture appear rather straight. Nobody brings out a bottle of booze and nobody whips out a joint. They’re in this setting specifically to hike and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s so strange to see a horror picture that doesn’t endow its characters with cartoonish ideas of how college kids behave. That being said, they’re still very boring characters that are hammed up by the actors to evoke some sort of response from the audience.
The bottom line is that Animal is such a waste of a great movie monster. For an independent horror production, it features amazing creature design from a skilled team that knows how to make a monster look and slaughter convincingly. This creature is too good to be thrown into such a bland and repetitive script. If a sequel were ever in the works, I’d love to see this type of movie from the perspective of the monster. Watching such a sharp-toothed being search the woods for food and care for his own is far more entertaining than watching some ho-hum characters debate about how to make it out of the woods alive. Make us care about the ducks if all the movie is going to be about is savagely shooting them all down. It’s very clear that more care was put into the monster than anything else in Animal.
You rated this film: 2
Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification
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