Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ANIMAL (2014) Blu-ray Review

Animal (2014) d. Brett Simmons (USA)

This Chiller-produced creature feature plays like an amalgam of other films – notably Night of the Living Dead, Jurassic Park, and Feast, the latter of which borrowed liberally from Romero’s playbook – but it’s all put together so slickly and with such a knowing tone that it makes for a surprisingly entertaining beer n’ chips Friday Night Fright.

Director Simmons, who brought us the not-bad updating of W.W. Jacobs’ classic The Monkey’s Paw a while back for the network, is clearly having fun trotting out the clichés and the jump scares, as well as tossing buckets of blood onto the set from just off-camera. The low-wattage cast does serviceable work, with Chasing Amy’s Joey Lauren Adams (older, but still scratchy-voiced fetching as ever) the most recognizable name in the bunch, while Elizabeth Gillies rocks her not-at-all-appropriate-for-hiking boots and skin-tight top like a pro. Thorsten Kaye brings some assured gravitas and macho hunkery to the proceedings, while Amaury Nolasco serves up the most odiously over-the-top villain since Jerry O’Connell’s obnoxious d-bagging in Piranha.

Bursting with clichés and stock characters (jock, sensitive jock, flaming gay guy, black gal, pregnant gal, rugged husband, harried wife, self-serving sociopath), the bar is set comfortably low for the trapped-in-the-woods thrills. While Gary Tunnicliffe’s creations have strong echoes of his toothy terrors from 2005’s Feast and get a little too much close-up screen time in the final reel, they’re still pretty cool practical monsters, with a minimum of CGI.

As with Chiller’s previous releases of Monkey’s Paw and Larry Fessenden’s Jaws-inspired freak fish flick Beneath, Shout! Factory serves things up with a polished hi-def presentation, complete with an audio commentary by Simmons and director of photography Scott Winig. (There are also a few Chiller-produced interview snippets with cast and crew (including a brief appearance by co-screenwriter Thommy Hutson, the writer/producer of the award-winning documentaries Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, Crystal Lake Memories, and More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead), but they don’t really amount to much more than sizzle pieces, lasting less than five minutes in length.) Said commentary is breezy and fun, with the duo extolling the joys and challenges of low budget filmmaking.

While no instant classic, when approached with low expectations it’s a lot more fun than any derivative and hastily assembled modern day monster movie has any right to be. One gets the feeling that Roger Corman would have been proud.

Now for the real question: Which song does this movie's title have running through your head for days, Pearl Jam or Def Leppard?

Animal is now available now from Shout! Factory and available for direct order HERE.


--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine


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