A ruthless entrepreneur targets young victims for his macabre business. Using an isolated horse barn, he sells his captives to the highest bidder. Five friends on a vacation at a lake house are brutally kidnapped and find themselves prisoners, awaiting the auction block. Rather than succumb to a soulless slave’s existence they chance death for freedom only to discover this twisted underworld reaches further than they imagine.
Written & Directed by: Jeremy Benson
Starring: John Still, Christian Walker, Jeanette Comans, Patrick Cox
Five college-aged kids are partying at a lake house while off in the distance, a shadowy figure is taking snapshots of their party and uploading them to his laptop. Later that night said figure makes his move and faster than you can say, “I gotta hundred dolla bill y’all, bout to spend this bitch I’m in this bitch”, the kids are kidnapped, taken to an isolated farmhouse, chained, beaten into submission, and auctioned off to the highest bidder to be shipped overseas and become drugged-up hump toys.
“I broke my first horse when I was 13. Took me three weeks, but I broke that little f*cker. Broke my first man when I was 30. Took me three days, and I don’t think you have what it takes to last that long.” – Wayne, LIVE ANIMALS
That’s right folks, a horror movie about the horrors of white slavery going on right here on the shores of our beloved country. Hell, from the looks of the barn the kids were kept in, this movie could have taken place somewhere in the South, or right here where I am in the Midwest, and honestly, that scares the living sh*t out of me. I know, it’s only a movie, but there’s hardly a week goes by that you don’t hear on the news about some poor young girl or guy that’s been missing for a few days, a few weeks, whatever, and chances are they’re either dead or really have been shipped overseas to buyers for their high-end clients.
It’s not outside the realm of possibility at all. Plus, after a pretty steady cinematic diet of nothing but zombies, vamps, and giant sandworm-like-thingies lately, I was able to sit back, crack open a beer, and really appreciate and get into this movie. I love the creatures with all my heart, but nothing makes me take notice these days faster than a well-done movie about the horrors that we as human beings inflict on each other. It still boggles my mind that as far as we’ve come as a society and with all of our technology, we still find it necessary to revert back to the dark ages and treat each other like rabid dogs fighting over the last squirrel. I’m not talking about the torture-with-tongue-in-cheekiness of movies like HOSTEL or with elaborate traps like SAW where the man behind the curtain is trying to make someone “appreciate” what they have in life, but cold, calculating sons-a-bitches who don’t give a rat’s ass about who they hurt – they do what they do because they get paid well, and they like it. No, they f*cking LOVE it.
Writer/director Benson has infused his latest feature with the look and feel of about a dozen horror flicks from the 1970s that I can think of off the top of my head. That’s not a putdown or an allusion to lack of creativity – on the contrary, it’s one of the highest forms of compliments that I can give out. I love those movies from that period – before the craze of unstoppable supernatural killers took over in the 80s. I would actually say that it has a Grindhouse feel to it – dirty, nasty, grungy, etc. And why the hell not? After all, this movie is very nasty and grungy, and the look and feel fits it. I have not seen Benson’s previous effort from a few years ago, SHUTTER, but you can bet your ass I’ll be checking that out now.
None of the actors in this flick had I heard of before, but I will be checking out their other work now – everyone brought their A-game with them, and it made the material much more believable. John Still as our “rancher” Wayne was a total badass – a cold, calculated, bloodthirsty (in more ways than one) businessman. His performance, for some reason, reminded me of John Jarratt’s in WOLF CREEK, had he been in the slave-for-profit trade and not just a psycho killer. Not the same type of character, mind you, but doing what he does with the same type of joy.
With the exception of our heroes having no common sense when you think it would have kicked in by then and doing a few stupid things without thinking for what seemed like no other reasons than to just serve the plot (does anyone in horror movies besides Randy Meeks ever actually watch horror movies??), I really have no other complaints about this movie. It once again shows how a little low budget indie flick with a good script and some talent in front of and behind the camera can easily upstage the Hollywood Remake Machine. LIVE ANIMALS is not a pretty movie. It is most certainly NOT a happy movie. But I really did enjoy the sh*t out of it and I highly recommend it, especially if you’re looking for a nice, realistic, laugh-free throwback to 70s horror.