Scream Factory has done an excellent job putting fan favorites and long lost films out, in awesome looking Blurays that are typically filled to the brim with special features. They’ve also done quite the job putting out original films, films that made their debut on the Chiller network, but are now being released by SF and with good reason. For the most part, the original films have been pretty entertaining, from THE MONKEY’S PAW and THE SQUAD, to the subject of this review, the Brett Simmons-helmed creature feature, ANIMAL. Taking what could have very easily been yet another horror film about youngsters getting picked off one by one by a silly looking monster, ANIMAL gives you people who are instantly relatable and worth caring about before giving you one gut punch after another.
Following a group of youngsters taking a trip for fun, ANIMAL wastes no time in giving you a glimpse of what’s ahead of you. Before we meet the young ones, we see a woman being pulled away and killed, leaving her friends Vicky, Carl and Douglas (Joey Lauren Adams, Thorsten Kaye and Amaury Nolasco, who gives viewers one evil performance that won’t be forgotten anytime soon). When the young group, led by EXCISION/PETER PAN‘s Jeremy Sumpter, Keke Palmer (the upcoming Scream Queens TV series), Elizabeth Gillies’ tough as nails Mandy character, and also Paul Iacono and Parker Young as Mandy’s boyfriend and mutual friend. Almost immediately after making their way into the woods, the group sees and is attacked by a monster-like animal (kudos to Gary J. Tunnicliffe and his crew for one excellent creature design) who doesn’t mess around. When you run into this creature, there isn’t a single amount of hesitation, before the creature tears you to pieces and rips your inside out. It’s a brutal creature and one that is extremely unique, giving horror fans a monster that is instantly easy to get on board with.
As the youngsters’ numbers begin dwindling due to a very pissed and HUNGRY creature, they make their way to a cabin, one in which the surviving three adults from the beginning are barricaded inside. Once inside, the combination of the older and younger characters adds to the story, with different revelations, challenges and true colors being revealed even BEFORE the crap hits the fan with the beast. It’s that claustrophobic one location setting of the cabin that makes for good drama, as each character has their own, and begin to turn on each other little by little. Throw that character development and a nonstop twist-filled second half into the picture and you’ve got one of the most impressive creature films in years. When the creature strikes, it’s far from subtle and filled ot the absolute top with gory and emotionally tense scenes that come out of nowhere, leaving your mother wide open and shocked.
There’s a very anarchistic mentality to ANIMAL, and it works so well for the film. If there’s a horror by numbers playbook, then Simmons and script co-writers Thommy Hutson (NEVER SLEEP AGAIN) and Catherine Trillo (PRANK) set that rule book on fire, because ANIMAL doesn’t play by a single traditional horror rule. Nobody is safe, and just when you think somebody is safe, well, guess what?, they’re not. It’s that balls to the wall approach to the film, topped by excellent performances all around, and an exceptional score by tomandandy (THE STRANGERS, CITADEL, GIRL HOUSE), that makes ANIMAL such a wild ride and a blast worth taking. It’s a very unique and original creature feature that should be high on any “I need to watch” lists you might have.