Spoilers follow ...
- When Animals Dream review by NP
On beginning her new job, shy Marie (Sonia Suhl) is greeted with ominous words, ‘Since you’re new, you’ll have to get rid of the fish waste.’ Marie is shy, occasionally sullen, and seems to be suffering from an un-diagnosable disease which leaves marks over her body. Getting rid of the fish waste is only the start of her challenges, in this film set in a Denmark fishing village …
At first, the abuse she receives at work seems like vicious, testosterone-fuelled cruelty disguised as high jinks, and it isn’t until later we discover there is reason for the resentment the locals have against her family. Marie’s mother (Sonja Richter) is catatonic, and late one night, Marie spies her father Thor (Lars Mikkelsen) shaving her shoulders and back. This is doubly cause for concern for Marie, as blemishes she is beginning to exhibit also feature the sprouting of down-like hair.
Thor’s history is revealed slowly. His wife is heavily medicated because her disease has a history of turning her into a killer. When it appears Marie is similarly afflicted, the local doctor, under Thor’s instruction, takes steps to anaesthetise her, when her mother springs into life and kills him. Shortly after, he is secretly buried in the garden, and she drowns herself in the bath.
Online reviews compare this to ‘Let the Right One In (2008)’, in that it can be seen as a kind of coming-of-age drama as well as a horror film. There are similarities.
When her work-mates continue to torment her, their wariness of her family giving them an excuse to act in their vindictive manner, it is hugely satisfying when Marie’s lycanthropic rage leads her to kill main protagonist Esben (Gustav Giese) – in fact, it’s a pity his suffering isn’t greater! Eventually, Marie is taken aboard a trawler where the locals intend to kill her, most likely dump her in the waters. Her subsequent slaughter of the entire crew puts me in mind of Dracula’s exploits aboard the Demeter – it is last seen as a ghost shop, drifting aimlessly. On board, only Marie remains, sleeping and child-like again, alongside Daniel (Jakob Oftebro), the only person to show her consistent kindness.
The sedate pacing may not appeal to everyone, but this unspectacular direction allows the story to tell itself, and for the characters to breathe, and is the way a truly atmospheric horror story should be told. Highly recommended.
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