This came onto Netflix with a decent enough star rating for us to add it to our watch list. By the time we got around to watching it one date night… it was down to two stars. Oh, the horror that can be a 2 star horror movie… We decided to give it a go…
Animal sets out treading a pretty unoriginal trope, a group of American teenagers head into wild woods on a hike and find that something is lurking among the trees. There’s even a cabin in them there woods.
So… did it hike away from the well-beaten track of many a horror before it into brave new territory? Was it a 2 star horror?
The answer is ‘no’ on both counts.
If you want depth, if you want psychologocal subtext, then watch ‘The Babadook’–you just won’t have a horror movie (sorry, I had to get that dig in). This movie isn’t big, and it isn’t clever, but it entertained. The characters are barely that, but given the nature of the story–teens pursued through the woods by something in the woods, there isn’t much scope for that. There are relationships, there is division, and when they encounter others they haven’t just got their pursuer to worry about.
The film is pretty fast paced, starting off with a punch as you see the last party of people to encounter the thing in the woods get attacked, and then it’s straight to our protagonists heading into the woods themselves. Again, little time is wasted in them realising the threat, and the thing in the woods is nicely fed to us through it stalking, and being glimpsed through the trees, and it has a chillingly distinctive call.
It quickly becomes a siege story, with the characters holed up in a cabin with the survivors of the last party. I had to use a little imagination for the characters being safe–some of the boards on windows didn’t look like they would keep out a determined child, let alone this supposedly clever and powerful creature that’s stalking them, but I went with it. One of the previous survivors has either gone mad, or is an asshole. Either way, he still ends up being an asshole. So, you get a ‘Night of the Living Dead’ uneasy alliance where the safety of their retreat is also threatened by someone within. There are some tense attempts to make a run for it and to defend the cabin from attack, and the protagonists get a few good strikes against the creature that were satisfying to watch and helped me root for the characters.
The creature itself was particularly effective. I’m pretty sure it was all practical effects, but if there was any CGI then it was really convincing. With practical effects monsters can quickly become a man in a rubber suit, but the creature was delivered well through the direction and was of a design where it looked like a beast all unto itself. The mouth, with its rat-like teeth, looked naaasty.
I have to get one major issue I had with the film out of the way. I was a little irritated by the token gay character. He had, appropriately for a hike into the wild, enough camp going on for a five berth tent with a stove and marshmallows. I know some camp is considered a ‘gay trait’ that we shouldn’t be ashamed of, but with gay representation often limited and a novelty it would be nice if camp wasn’t used as shorthand for character identity. He was a likeable and somewhat endearing character, and he had a throwaway line that had the potential to change the dynamic of the group (perhaps more effectively if it had been delivered earlier) but for much of the time he was the clown. The funny gay. Disappointing. It also damaged the film a little as it gave it a Scooby Doo quality. Although, ironically, this did all make him stand out for me as the character with most identity. Yet, that doesn’t say much as I could easily make this film sound like Snow White, as the characters could easily be defined by single traits, dopey, angry, strong, gay, tits. Yeah, there’s one character who has cleavage clothing wholly inappropriate for being pursued through the woods. Granted, she did not know this when choosing her hiking/boyfriend bait attire, yet, she doesn’t once have a top malfunction. That’s more unbelievable than a creature in the woods.
So, it wasn’t a 2 star movie. IMO it was a 3 star movie. If you’re in the mood for a shallow B movie monster flick then this is a pretty satisfying choice.
Have you seen it? Have different thoughts? Can you recommend any other Netflix horror diamonds in the rough?