I heard about Animal (2014) a few months ago as it seems people were surprised that Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films was attached to it as part of the production company. Can’t say I was surprised. Hello? Firestarter, Cat’s Eye, Scream. Doesn’t seem that this would be a big stretch for her, but as I’m a fan, I made note of the movie.
Then my husband (let’s just call him The Husband) pointed out that it looked awesome, and to my surprise, it was available to rent and/or buy on some of the streaming video services.
“Ohh! Can we get it?” I asked The Husband.
He rolled his eyes, but gave in, clicked a few buttons, and we settled in – him with a dose of cynicism, and me with my laptop, so I could take proper notes.
Now, I’m a big fan of the TV comedy Enlisted (Really, Fox? Why did you cancel it?), and I noticed Parker Young was in this. He plays the lovable doofus so wonderfully, but his role here isn’t in that same vein. Keke Palmer from the movie Akeelah and the Bee – which I also enjoyed – is in this one too. The two play brother and sister (step, but that didn’t seem to matter). The rest of the crew may be familiar if you enjoy TV, movies, and music – Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy, Big Daddy), Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break, Rizzoli & Isles), and Eve (Yes, the rapper!).
“I’m pretty sure that girl think’s she’s Mila Kunis,” I said to The Husband of Elizabeth Gillies (Victorious and iCarly). And, let’s just get it out of the way… holy cleavage alert!
“That’s OK. That guy thinks he’s Gerard Butler,” The Husband said of Thorsten Kaye (The Bold and The Beautiful).
Based on the hair, the look, the expressions, I think we were both spot-on.
Now that we have the cast figured out, I will say that this movie goes fast! It’s only about 90 minutes long, and the action keeps it moving. It’s pretty standard stuff, but there were a few surprises.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the movie.
The opening credits roll for way too long. Then we finally open with four people running through the woods. It’s dark, and the fear is evident on their faces.
“HOLD UP!” I say as someone falls. “Do not tell me that’s it?” (Watch the movie. You’ll see what I mean.)
“Shh!” The Husband is getting into it, or he just wants me to be quiet – could go either way.
The opening scene is quick. I’m still annoyed at what I just saw, and it suddenly cuts to the next day… or maybe a week. Time seems fluid in this movie, and we never get a real time frame. In any event, I don’t even get time to process what I just saw, and now it’s daytime, and the kids are driving along. They’re out for a day of hiking. Good clean fun!
Matt (Jeremy Sumpter), Alissa (Keke Palmer), Jeff (Parker Young), Mandy (Elizabeth Gillies), and Sean (Paul Iacono) are friends out for a day in the woods. Two couples – Matt and Alissa, Mandy and Jeff – and the fifth wheel.
“Ohh… they should get out of the woods!” I say.
“SHH!” Again, it’s unclear if The Husband is just not appreciating my witty commentary, or he is really into this movie.
Still stinging from the earlier death, I pretend to pout, but since The Husband is watching the movie, he doesn’t notice, so I just settle in yet again.
As they are getting ready to set off, The Husband tells me to note that Jeff leaves his keys in the gas cap. Really? Who does that? He has a huge backpack. Oh wait. This will probably come in handy, right? (Duh!)
As our group is hiking along, Jeff and Alissa – the step-siblings – decide to argue about whether or not they are deep enough in the woods. Alissa wants to turn around, while Jeff says they can keep going and still make it back to the car by dark. Guess who is wrong.
While the arguing continues, Matt ventures out to water a tree and finds a backpack.
“What does that patch say?” I squint at the TV. Yes, I had my glasses on, but it was a dirty backpack. “Marines? Special forces?”
“No, honey. Not special forces. Just Marines,” The Husband clears it up for me.
“It would be so much cooler if it was a special forces patch.” I mutter, but correct my notes.
Hmm… wonder who that bag belongs to!
Because they waste so much time arguing, it gets dark. Hiking back to the car in the dark is not fun. Mandy is pissed, and our friends stop to take a quick break. And even though Mandy is so scared, she decides to follow something – not sure what – in the dark with only her trusty cell phone flashlight as a guide.She screams! (And a worthy scream it is.)
“Shit!” I look up from my notes. “What did I miss?”
Apparently nothing as we only see what freaked her out when the rest of the crew joins her. It’s… I don’t know… Maybe a foot? A hand? Has to be a hand! Whatever it is, it’s nasty and dripping. It’s dead. That’s for sure.
All of a sudden a loud part growl, part screech fills the air. Then maybe some snorting. At first I thought it was my pug, Shinobi, snoring. It sounded exactly like him, just a lot bigger, but then I realized it was the TV and strained to see what was going on.
“Can you turn off the light?” The Husband paused the movie until our 15 year old shut off the light. That made it a little better, but we still couldn’t make out exactly what was out there. Did I mention it’s dark!
The Husband and our son agreed that it probably wasn’t a giant pug, and I had to refrain myself from wondering if that would be a cool movie – Giant Pug: Pissed off, Can’t Breathe.
Focus! OK, so back to the movie. Whatever is out there is eating something, and this thing is creepy looking. It snorts and snarls. And then it notices the group staring at him/her – how rude!
Our group of 5 takes off running with the creature chasing after them. Amazingly, only one person trips – but he hops back up and keeps going. Then they see a cabin up ahead. Jeff, ever the leader, tells the other four they need to run to the cabin, and he’ll distract the monster. They all start to take off and…
“WTF!” I shout at the TV. “This is not cool!”
I was not happy at the next death and have decided that I do not like the director (Brett Simmons) breaking all the rules of movies like this – well, my rules anyways. But this does ratchet up the tension in the film quite a bit and leaves me wondering who is going to fill what role.
The four remaining friends make it to the cabin, though Mandy is almost taken. Once things settle a bit, we see the three surviving adults from the first scene have made their way here and taken refuge too.
The most chilling statement isn’t given its due in my opinion. Kaye remarks that all the windows and doors have been barricaded – some of the wood looks old, some more recent. This makes me wonder, how many times has this scenario played out? How many people have died? CREEPY!
And this is where, for me, things got interesting. There is a real feeling of isolation, or being stuck, and you know that can’t mean anything good. People are going to die. The only question is, will they go down fighting?
This isn’t only about the monster outside. Sometimes in tense situations people turn on one another, and the film explores that as well. Doug (one of the adults; Nolasco) is truly a bastard, and what he does shocked the hell out of me. And I don’t shock easily! It was hard to see the good guys go down, and even though there isn’t a whole lot of character development, this group is easy to root for. They’re friends. They care about one another. Why would we want them to die?
But alas, die is what many of them do. Alissa steps up to the plate, and I love it.
“YOU GO, GIRL!” I yell, and this time The Husband does not shush me – most likely because he realizes it is a fruitless endeavor. I WILL NOT BE SILENCED!
OK, anyway, the plan is to creep into the basement and get the gas cans, and then torch the creature’s ass. Good plan, but you know it isn’t that easy.
Earlier, Matt tried to be the hero and run back to the car to get help. That did not go well, and Matt ends up in bad shape. He does get back to the cabin somehow, and he tries to warn Alissa of… something!
“What did he say?” The Husband asks.
We think we figure out what he says, but I’m not going to spoil it for you. Watch it!
The ending was a surprise to me – not in what happened, but who was left standing. With that said, there’s nothing new here. They try to throw a few surprises out at us and some work, some don’t. There are moments that I knew exactly what was going to happen. There are moments The Husband knew what was going down. But it was a fun ride.
A few have compared it to Feast (2005; directed by John Gulager), and I very much agree. We don’t really know what the monster is, we don’t know what it wants, or where it came from, but we know it wants to kill.
The ending was open, so I could easily see a sequel, and the setup is something that could easily lead to a franchise, though if that is the idea, I hope we get some more backstory of this thing – maybe explore the origins a bit.
All in all, Animal was pretty standard stuff, but it was a fun way to spend 90 minutes on a warm summer night.
3 1/2 dilapidated cabins out of five.