When plans for a weekend vacation hit a dead end, a group of close-knit friends find themselves stranded in unfamiliar territory, pursued by a menacing, blood thirsty predator. Holed up in an isolated cabin, tensions mount as long-buried secrets are revealed. As the body count rises, the group must put their differences aside and fight for survival.
In 2012, a film was released called Cabin in the Woods. The movie disassembled the mechanisms of the horror subgenre and became a semi-comedic analysis of the movies that fans have grown to love. It pinpointed the tropes of the action and characters in the movies and made the use of those concepts a crucial part of the film. It marked a point of no return for that corner of horror, with all movies that followed having to either subvert the tropes or find a way to make them work to the filmmaker’s advantage.
And thus, the movie Animal came about in 2014. Animal is the story of five friends who go on a hiking trip in the woods. Jeff (Parker Young) and his step-sister Alissa (Keke Palmer) used to accompany their parents to these woods when they were younger. After a long period away, they return with Jeff’s girlfriend Mandy (Elizabeth Gillies), Alissa’s boyfriend Matt (Jeremy Sumpter), and their friend Sean (Paul Iacono). The trip does not go well for them. The road to where they were headed is closed off, Jeff and Mandy are getting into arguments, and a strange animal seems to be following them. The only place they find to escape the animal is a cabin in the middle of the woods where three people are already hiding out. Together, the friends and their new acquaintances hide in the cabin while trying to find a way to get rid of the animal that is stalking and preying on them.
Though the name of the movie is Animal, the most important aspect of the film is the interactions between the human characters while they are holed up in the cabin. The creature outside is a looming danger that comes to the forefront in the final third of the film, but the bulk of the movie is about what the characters inside do as a reaction to the danger threatening them. The secrets they reveal and the fears that bubble to the surface due to the experience are the qualities that drive the movie forward and keep it from being monotonous. These details that are added to the characters make the moments without action feel just as important as the moments with action.
One character that helps to highlight this attention to the quieter moments is Douglas (Amaury Nolasco), who along with Vicky (Joey Lauren Adams) and Carl (Thorsten Kaye) was already in the cabin when the five friends arrived. He is a paranoid survivalist who will do anything to protect his own skin. His refusal to work with the others while they try to execute their plans adds an interesting other side to their struggle to stay alive and brings more elements to the story than a simple predator and prey interaction. He has a pessimistic outlook on their current situation and fails to comprehend how helping the other people will keep them all alive. Nolasco brings out the scared side of his character to a believable degree that it builds successfully into the tense climax of the film.
The human interactions are not the only major component of the climax in Animal. Like any good animal attack film, as time goes on, more of the creature is revealed. The creature design in this one is pretty interesting. It has a muscular, humanoid body and a head that resembles that of a bird. What would be the beak of a bird is instead a large set of teeth to devour its victims with. The creature is rather creepy to look at and brings an aura of fear to the proceedings. It is a successful creature villain for a horror movie that depends on the creature to provide the majority of the scares.
What truly complements the look of the creature is the cinematography of Animal. The shot compositions and camera movements help to breathe life into a movie that is primarily set in the woods and in a cabin. The collaboration of director Brett Simmons and cinematographer Scott Winig came together in a beautiful marriage that helped to make the movie look more expensive than it was. It had the feel of an independent horror flick while having the look and sheen of a studio picture. Animal is more pleasing to the eyes with the quality of the cinematography, and is thusly a better watch than many of the movies that are lacking in this department.
Animal is a cabin in the woods movie that is worth watching for anyone interested in the subgenre of horror. It does not do anything new with the concept of people trapped in a cabin. Yet it serviceably portrays the fears of the characters and the dangerous experience to a delightful degree. There is something to be said for a movie that does its job while not being wholly original. That is what Animal was. It was a movie that knew what it was doing. It was in capable hands through the performances, the look, and the direction. Though it brought nothing new to the table, it still managed to be an entertaining time. That is all you can ask of a movie.
- Audio Commentary With Director Brett Simmons
- Interviews With The Cast
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage
- Theatrical Trailer