After the joy of writing up Pontypool yesterday, I was reluctant to take another spin of the wheel. I know that may seem weird since my viewing of Pontypool was a result of Netflix Roulette (though, I would have gotten around to it eventually since it was recommended to me by a reader). However (and maybe this settles the debate, once and for all, of whether I’m a pessimist or optimist at heart), I can’t forget some of the horrible movies I’ve had to endure during this experiment (I’m looking at you Haunt, Alien Abduction, The Damned, Devil’s Pass, etc.). I want to hold onto the memory of Pontypool as long as I possibly can, and by taking another spin, I risk having to watch another horrible movie that might diminish my mental hold on this film. But what choice do I have… well, I guess I could quit at a highpoint and just shut the blog down right here, right now… don’t worry (or sorry, if you’re hating this), but that’s not happening… at least, not yet. So, I finally worked up the nerve to sit down and watch another random horror movie. I guess the good news is that Animal was so forgettable that there is no risk of of it taking the place of Pontypool in my brain.
At first glance Animal seems like it might be trying to do something different… and, by something different, I mean something old. The filmmakers (who cares) attempted to create a monster movie that used practical effects… and, while the film isn’t great, it does have that going for it. The weird thing about this movie is that it is very fast paced, and stuff happens at a pretty good clip, but, at the same time, it just seems old-hat, which, translates to boring. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself though… let’s get to the plot (this will be a quick one). A group of five (why, is it always five?) twentysomethings go on a camping (hiking, maybe… again, who cares) trip and (for no particularly reason at all… maybe deforestation (this is hinted at with a throw-away line (this may be the most random connection with deforestation since Contagion))) are suddenly perused by a monster. The group eventually meets up with another group… which, really only serves to up the body count. Again, the upside of this movie is that it moves fast… really, really fast… seriously… there’s only a few minutes of lead up before the monster appears and starts killing people. The other major strength of this movie is the filmmakers’ decision to use practical effects. The monster is reminiscent of one of Stan Winston’s creations. In addition, they aren’t shy about showing you the creature… while there is a bit of ceremonial creature-teasing at the beginning of the film, the filmmakers don’t take very long to show you everything… and as often as possible. Unfortunately, this is really the only good thing about the film.
So, where does the film go wrong? In so many places. Frist off, remember above when I said that the movie moves along at a pretty good clip? Well, that’s not really an accurate description of the reality of the situation. Here’s a better analogy: The engine of the movie revs high, but the wheels are just spinning in place. I feel like the filmmakers never got past the “elevator pitch” stage of their script. They came up with a movie about a monster chasing some kids through the woods, and that’s what they filmed. I cannot, for the life of me, tell you what happened between the point in the movie where the kids stumble on the monster (because, that’s literally what happens) and when they find the next group. I also can’t tell you what happens between this point and the end of the movie. In other words, there are truly only three plot points in this film… and yet, somehow, the movie seems to fly by. In addition, and I’ll try not to give too much away here, the plan to kill the monster is extremely simplistic (and begs the question why no one thought of it before this point in the film)… relatedly, the final confrontation between the survivor (some may consider giving away the fact that this is a single survivor is a spoiler, but if you’ve ever seen a horror movie, you know there can be only one) and the monster is a huge let down… it just kind of happens… and lasts maybe thirty seconds. The movie just kind of ends. Finally, one of the characters in the film reeked of gay stereotypes… to be fair, it wasn’t a wholly one-dimensional portrayal, but it was damn close… it seemed so, offensively, old-timey.
So, in the end if you’re looking for a short movie (clocking in just around eighty minutes) with some pretty neat practical effects this movie will work for you. However, I have to stress that this is all you should be looking for in this movie… if you look for anything, and I mean anything else (like a plot, good acting, character development, etc.) you will be extremely disappointed.