Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman(Release Date: February 17, 2015)
Stop me if you've heard this one before: a group of friends head into the woods for a daytime hike and run afoul of a razor-toothed beast who will stop at nothing to gobble them all up. On paper, "Animal" (produced by Drew Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen under their Flower Films banner) sounds like a standard-issue monster movie, and in some ways it is. In others, though, it defies expectations. For one, the cast (including Keke Palmer, Jeremy Sumpter, Joey Lauren Adams and Thorsten Kaye) is a step above the norm, leaving one to question why the picture couldn't have gotten a wider theatrical release. For two, if the plot itself is routine, the chain of events that befall the characters subvert what is anticipated. No one is safe, and the last person standing is genuinely surprising.
With "Animal," director Brett Simmons shows a welcome, old-school devotion to practical effects over CGI, and the extra effort pays off in spades with a monstrously designed villain who is unsettling and thrillingly tactile, reminiscent of 1988's "Pumpkinhead
" without feeling like a copycat. Screenwriters Thommy Huston and Catherine Trillo bring extra shades to some of their would-be archetypal characters, none more so than gay character Sean (an immensely likable Paul Iacono), written and embodied as a real person rather than a script creation. By comparison, the antagonistic antics of hard-headed, irrational, for-himself Douglas (Amaury Nolasco) get old fast; he can't die fast enough. One wishes there was more creativity put into exploring the animal of the title and the lore behind this species' existence, but there is no denying the crafty skill and above-average production values with which "Animal" has been made.
The exceptional 1080p transfer of "Animal" becomes apparent from the very beginning, with shots of a lonesome forest bringing such clarity and dimension to the image it looks like the viewer could reach right into the screen. The frame never falters thereafter, without so much as a single case of shimmer, moiré, or edge enhancement to be found. For a film that is primarily set at night, black levels are inky, contrast is impeccable, and there is no depreciation in clarity even when in low-light situations. Every bead of sweat and facial blemish gives additional legitimacy to this high-def presentation. As befits a brand-new film, the film is in perfect shape. The 5.1. DTS-HD Master Audio boasts full immersion and a sonic depth that can be deciphered as early as the opening credits scored to composer Tomandandy's hypnotic music score. This is a full-bodied track with liberal use of the surround channels.
- Audio Commentary with director Brett Simmons
- Interviews with the Cast (1:43, HD)
- Behind the Scenes (3:04, HD)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:45, HD)
- Teaser Trailer (0:32, HD)
"Animal" slipped under the radar when it premiered in select theaters and on VOD in summer 2014, but Scream Factory's Blu-ray release of this Chiller Films production should hopefully amend this oversight. The wheel has most definitely not been reinvented, but as a creature feature that takes a familiar plot and injects it with enough personality to lift the proceedings above the norm, it is worth checking out. Recommended.