20 Jun 2014

Review - 'Animal' Lacks the Originality and Style to Match its Competition

Director: Brett Simmons
Writer: Thommy Hutson, Catherine Trillo
Starring: Jeremy Sumpter, Joey Lauren Adams, Elizabeth Gillies
Running Time: 86 mins
Sub-Genre: Monster
Release: 13th June 2014

When plans for a weekend vacation hit a dead end, a group of close-knit friends find themselves stranded in unfamiliar territory, pursued by a menacing, blood thirsty predator. Holed up in an isolated cabin, tensions mount as long-buried secrets are revealed. As the body count rises, the group must put their differences aside and fight for survival.

Feast has been and gone, and although not all horror fans have seen it or liked it, there is no denying that it presented something new and something worth a viewing; that is of course more to be said for Brett Simmons' Animal, that plays like a poor man's Feast with a lack of innovation and development. You have seen it before, you have endured the mimic, so to save yourself some time and 80 minutes that could be just as well spent on something more productive; avoid Animal like you would a wild animal in a deserted forest area.

If dumb character decisions, inept monster moments and a deflated sense of terror is your bag, then Animal will be right up your alley, as only the mildly amused will find something worthy in a film so deprived of originality that if feels like a tribute sequel clumped together of reused, reduced and recycled material. Its all fun and games until you realise Simmons is playing it completely straight-faced, and in a film of this level a move like that makes or breaks; and in this case is breaks, and it breaks bad. Oh Breaking Bad! My FIRST unintentional pun!!! The difference here is that Breaking Bad was actually good, when Animal was almost the complete opposite.

What made films such as Feast so fresh was its tongue in cheek approach to the sub-genre, and the fact that strangely mutated monsters attacking was something that didn't need to be taken serious at all times. Animal tries this approach early on, but the humour falls flat due to the casts inability to make it work; being unintentionally funny is one thing, but trying to be funny is another, especially when it fails on nearly every possible way.

There are a few familiar faces to be admired here such as Joey Lauren Adams (Big Daddy) and Prison Break's Amaury Nolasco who's performance was at times a little too comical but what undoubtedly stronger than most of the cast who failed to deliver both believable performances or performances so bad that it was enjoyable. However, Hutson and Trillo (Writers) achieved something worth noting here with the characters, conforming them from cliched to (albeit slightly) original characters, playing slightly on the conventions established by The Cabin in the Woods and transforming them into somewhat of intriguing ones. This also includes the order in which the cast is picked off which surprisingly never turns out how you would imagine, and if Animal has anything to offer, it's its unconventional twist on character cliches that are developed enough to admire in a film so lackluster that it has no other redeeming features.

Ultimately however, Simmons direction that reflects both a lack of cinematic flare and an unfocused grasp on the subject matter reflects strongly on the overall product, and although there may be something here to please a fan or two, there's simply not enough to please an entire troop of horror fans that demand a watch full of tension, scares and originality; and when a film like Animal comes along, becoming the polar opposite of just that, it's hard to admire it for what it is, when what it is, is tedious, inept, poorly constructed, poorly acted and unforgivably lackluster. Brownie points do go to it for using minimalistic CGI, relaying almost completely on practical effects, and although the monster may have no redeeming qualities, it will always better than watching an animated creature frollick around a woodlin area. Either way the film would have sucked.

VERDICT: Animal relays too much on genre cliches to get its thrills, but ultimately its lack of focus and inept attempt as "something new" has crippled the film into becoming a Feast wannabe, which when trying to achieve something different is the highest of insults, for both the creators and us for making the mistake to watch it.

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