Film - 2.5/5
Something vicious is hunting a group of close friends in the belly of an ominous forest. A getaway weekend that was suppose to be fun and relaxing has now turned into a nightmare with no way of waking up. Trapped inside an abandoned home with three other survivors, a deadly apex predator stalks to kill them and tries to find a weakness in the their makeshift fortress. Tensions rise as their dwelling shrinks around them and soon they find themselves at each others throats creating a monstrous situation not only on the outside, but also on the inside.
Animal is an original movie from Chiller Films - a film division of the popular Chiller TV channel - and is produced by Jimmy Fallon's wife Nancy Juvonen and Drew Barrymore of Flower Films production company. Right away, I know what your first thoughts are going to be; there is no way a horror movie produced by Jimmy Fallon's wife and Drew Barrymore could ever be horrific. I can tell you first hand that Chiller Films lives up to the moniker as Animal is a chilling creature feature while delivering the fun of a rampant monster film. Alongside Chiller Films and Flower Films, Synthetic Cinema International also have their hands in the honey pot and my experience with this particular production company, include Banshee!!! and Alien Opponent, with those films in mind it doesn't surprise me on why this film is entertaining and relentless.
The story itself is fairly typical and straightforward for a creature feature: A group of unlucky survivors are trapped and surrounded by a bloodthirsty creature. The characters make up for the underdeveloped scenario by slowly exposing several characters' dark sides, revealing their true selves, and confessing their hidden desires. These evolving character traits advances the film from just a sole creature film into a creature film with a dysfunctional and socially inept group of survivors.
The survivors are played by a great cast of ensemble actors. My particular favorite actor is The Bold and the Beautiful regular Thorsten Kaye as Carl. His chiseled mature face and built stature has him as the protector and father figure to the rather younger cast. Carl's wife Vicky is portrayed by Joey Lauren-Adams, an experienced actress whose career expands from Married with Children to being a regular character in Kevin Smith movies such as Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back. Vicky is rather laid back and almost non-existent through the entire ordeal. Instead, Animal focuses more on Alissa (Keke Palmer), Sean (Paul Iacono), Mandy (Elizabeth Gillies), and Douglas (Amaury Nolasco) and more on their internal struggles that the Animal releases out of them from intense fear.
The characters do become a bit too bold for my own comfort. There was a point when I felt I was watching this past Halloween's Geico "Its What You Do" commercial where the scared and desperate four teenagers are hiding behind a wall of chainsaws to escape a killer. Animal felt a bit of the same where the characters take unnecessary precautions that end up being the worst idea of their lives. Why go into the basement when it's totally exposed? Why have all your strong male heroes go outside all at once?
The creature itself is a tamer, knock-off version of John Gulager's Feast monsters, but like those monsters, Animal is comprised of practical effects that rely on fast motion to create a lifelike life destroyer. They're fast, ferocious, and certainly animalistic. With their fierce shredding and gnawing capabilities, the creature doesn't have an origin and are graced with only a conspiracy theory concocted by the Douglas character in one of his frantic moments. Douglas's theory is that the local police know everything about these creatures. His theory is verified as there is no search and rescue even when Sean reached 9-1-1 authorities.
Audio/Video - 3.5/5
Scream Factory's blu-ray delivers a beautiful, crystal clear 1080p high-definition widescreen (1.78:1) presentation bringing the woods alive turning the forest into an inauspicious character. There is DTS HD Master 5.1 Master audio, but there are points where the dialogue dips under the audio of the ambient soundtrack.
The extras package is fairly standard with an audio commentary with director Brett Simmons, an interview with the cast of Animal, a behind-the-scenes footage which delves into everything I just talked about in the body of the review and, finally, a theatrical trailer.
Animal brings the jump scares and certainly creates chilling moments; however, we've all seen this story before with a slightly different outcome. Scream Factory's Blu-ray release has a great look and sound. Animal is Certainly an entertaining creature feature that's bloody and fast diving right into dire situations from the get-go.