As far as creatures running in the wilderness and eating humans go, “Animal,” a new Blu-ray and DVD release from Shout! Factory, is an above average horror flick filled with refreshing surprises.
Drew Barrymore and her Flower Films production company, along with Chiller Films, are among the developers of Animal, which though low-budget, is blessed with a solid production design and an array of ever ready actors (Amaury Nolasco, Joey Lauren Adams, Elizabeth Gillies, Keke Palmer).
Shot in the woodsy terrain of Connecticut (Hartford, to be exact), Animal centers on siblings Alissa (Keke Palmer) and Jeff (Parker Young) as they take their respective friends (Paul Iacono, Elizabeth Gillies, Jeremy Sumpter) deep into the heart of Mother Nature for a sublime hiking experience.
When Jeff loses track of their path and the sun begins to set, their survival prospects grows dim after an encounter with a bloodthirsty creature. A remote and fortified cabin is their only hope for survival (Joey Lauren Adams, Amaury Nolasco, Thorsten Kaye are the inhabitants), and with a little bit of ingenuity these scared (and scarred) youths may live to see another day.
Though it has the requisite gore and scares that one expects from a horror flick, Animal’s success lies in taking a seemingly predictable narrative and turning it on its head. Each character in the storyline may fulfill a particular stereotype (for example, Palmer’s the brainy one, Gillies is the narcissist, and Nolasco is the coward), but where each person ends up is definitely a shocker.
Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP) and Elizabeth Gillies (Victorious), both known for their work on Nickelodeon TV shows, are more than able scream queens, while Jeremy Sumpter and Parker Young also do fine work as the dudes who, when push comes to shove, rise to the occasion.
Although the opening moments of Animal contains an action sequence with the creature’s first kill (a welcome cameo from rapper/actress Eve), most of the movie’s first chapter is filled with character exposition. Thanks to an innate chemistry among the actors, all that talking in the woods is actually an effective choice. When the “animal” finally comes to roost, we actually care about their respective fates.
Special Features: Both versions come with interviews with the cast, behind-the scenes footage, and the theatrical trailer. Though the BTS and interview segments are way too short for their own good, Brett Simmons’ directors commentary is worth a listen if you’re into the nuts and bolts of filmmaking.
During the commentary, Simmons, who also edited the film, discusses the challenges of directing a low-budget, run and gun shoot (the movie was actually filmed in the same location of the original Friday the 13th). He’s very candid throughout the commentary offers some invaluable insight on day-for-night shooting and why shooting driving scenes can really ramp up the budget.
As much as I dug the creature-feature work on Animal, I’m not too keen on the film’s cover/poster art, Though it exudes cheesy horror movie goodness, Animal has much more to offer. But maybe digging a bit deeper and finding a few surprises isn’t such a bad thing, and after watching this flick I’m definitely excited to check out Simmons’ previous movie The Monkey’s Paw (which was directed by Blue Ruin actor Macon Blair).
To purchase Animal on Blu-ray or DVD, head on over to Shout! Factory.