Movie Review – Animal (2014)

2014’s Animal, directed by Brett Simmons and produced by Drew Barrymore, is a creature feature whose formula is about as imaginative as the title would suggest – a group of friends go hiking and get attacked by a creature, joining with another group inside an abandoned house before being picked off one by one.

Despite being generic to a fault, Animal still manages to make the most of its obviously limited budget with a decently designed creature and competent direction. The movie looks good and the film provides for some effective jump scares as well as at least one tension-filled scene involving portable two-way radios, no doubt inspired by 1979’s Alien (a film that proves a basic title needn’t necessitate an unoriginal plot). The cast, too, is generally capable: Keke Palmer plays a strong role as Alissa and Paul Iacono as Sean gives a good performance, particularly in a well-acted but ultimately unnecessary scene where his character is cracking under the pressure and wishes to reveal painful secrets before it’s too late. The film tries to create some depth with the characters, which is appreciated, even if it doesn’t always succeed.

Yet it could have been more. We never learn about the lore of the creature, and certain aspects are hinted at but frustratingly undeveloped.  For instance, the friends are going hiking to enjoy the forest because it’s going to be cut down in a few years. Then a road is closed due to “forest regeneration,” which suggests that the forest was already cut down and is now being allowed to re-grow. We then get a quick bit of dialogue about how they’re uncertain the trees will be cut down at all. Perhaps there was a conspiracy plot point that was dropped. It’s no matter, because it all goes nowhere.

While Animal doesn’t excel in originality it also doesn’t have much to offend. Unlike its characters it sticks to the well-worn trail and it gets where it needs to in the end, and provides a passably entertaining experience along the way.

Grade: D+

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