Director – Bret Simmons
Cast – Joey Lauren Adams, Elizabeth Gillies, Paul Iacono, Thorsten Kaye, Amaury Nolasco, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Sumpter, Parker Young
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
All my life I have been a sucker for the old-fashioned creature feature, and while they “don’t make them like they used to” I’m still appreciative of filmmakers delivering these efforts in our modern day. Animal is such a film, with a bare bones story that relies on kills and its creature to sell itself. There are plenty of faults with both its writing and direction, but watching this with a forgiving mindset should give creature fans enough of the goods for this to be a decent watch.
When their weekend vacation plans force them to leave their vehicle and trek through unfamiliar woods, a group of close friends find themselves pursued by a bloodthirsty creature.
Writers Thommy Hutson (Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th, Scream: The Inside Story) and Catherine Trillo ensure that this 86 minute flick moves as a brisk pace, with the opening sequence giving us our first kill. It does not take long for our protagonists to leave their vehicle to explore after the road halts to a dead end, and they find themselves in a dire situation at the 18 minute mark. The pace remains high during all three acts, which is pretty much a requirement for creature films that intentionally lack substance. Much to my surprise though, the creature wasn’t as basic as the rest of the film. There are times when we see it learning and adapting to the situations the protagonists present to it, like when they hide in a nearby cabin and it tauntingly tries to find weaknesses in the barricades. You won’t get much as far as character development, or likable characters to begin with (I only liked Carl), but that only makes it even more enjoyable when they are dismembered. There is also no backstory regarding the creature. We never learn where it came from or how it became what it is. Simply put,this as simple as the one-sentence plot synopsis I wrote.
Animal is the third horror film for director Bret Simmons, after Husk and The Monkey’s Paw. He does a fair job executing this story, ensuring that the viewer sees what they came to see – gore and creature action. I enjoyed the look of the monster and was surprised to see that at least 90% of the carnage came via live-action effects. The gore is present and the kills are fairly brutal, with my only gripe being the editing of some of the kill sequences – where choppy cuts mess with the “flow” of the kill. This same crappy editing was also in full force during the film’s chase scenes, so if you dislike it like I did then be ready, because there’s more of it. Nonetheless, Simmons kept my attention with good atmosphere, positive sets (the cabin), believable character conflict, and of course…the creature.
Overall, Animal is another run-of-the-mill creature feature that isn’t great, but may be worthwhile to fans of such films thanks to its live-action effects and bountiful creature action.