For every genre, we have sub-genres and with that, common tropes and cliches that emerge. It is the filmmaker’s burden to do all they can to avoid these things, or at least play against them.
I knew going into it that Animalistic was a Horror movie, but even more specifically it was a Rape/Revenge movie. The question was, how well could this movie stand out from all the others in this sub-genre? I’ll go into that, but first here is the plot description.
Emma, portrayed by Hanna Oldenburg (“You Never Asked (Short)”, “Meeting Place”), is kidnapped and imprisoned by a trio of psychopaths. To expand on that, Emma is a representative for a huge energy company about to make a deal with another entity called “More Oil”, she travels from Australia to America to sign this important business contract.
Leaving from her meeting, luck would have it that a Taxi Driver named Shirley, played by Niki Nordenskjold (“Wallander (TV)”, “Beck (TV)”), happens to be in the parking lot. During the taxi ride, Shirley pulls over on a darkened side street and knocks Emma out with a breathing agent.
When Emma comes to, she is tied to a chair in a run down house, money changes hands, Shirley is selling Emma as a prized catch to Jim, played with strong conviction by Ralf Beck (“Wither”, “Wallander (TV)”).
That is the set up, so did Animalistic avoid the cliches and rise above most of the rape/revenge films out there? Sadly no. It did not because the story did not capitalize on elements that go beyond the bare bones structure of this Horror sub-genre.
Animalistic set up that Emma represents this oil conglomerate and that this company, More Oil, is hit with controversy due to business decisions that put money above the need to preserve life on Earth.
I watched the movie expecting this story element to pay off and it never did. Jim did not learn who Emma is until after he has begun to torture and sexually assault her. He sees it on a news report and then, even him having that knowledge, does not change things.
Jim is not holding Emma ransom, he is not doing this for political reasons, he is just playing the main villain in a Horror film that trades on violence between men and women.
Maybe the writers where hoping that because the oil contract is the thing that puts Emma in this deadly position, it is enough to carry the metaphor through the narrative. It did not do that for me and besides that omission the writing was not above the standard set.
If one would compare Animalistic to the critically acclaimed Coralie Fargeat film Revenge or the recent Who’s Watching Oliver, or even I Spit on Your Grave, you can see what higher quality filmmakers can cook up by using the same ingredients.
Another example is how Emma is tied down initially but then on several occasions Jim and his male accomplice Pete, with Torbjorn Andersson in that role, become lazy criminals.
They tell Emma, “Don’t you think about going anywhere,” then they wonder outside leaving Emma untied, who of course then attempts to escape the house. These moments really feel like sloppy, illogical ways to get to these scenes of suspense.
On the positive end on things, Animalistic has a gritty stylistic look to it, care was taken into the lighting and in post production to give the movie the bleach bypass look and hazy feel of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic.
The moments when Emma does try to escape, may have poor set ups but they deliver the suspense. Equally, the special effects in Animalistic are well done, these shots run red with the gore Horror fans crave.
In a few vulgar scenes there was a chance for them to push the envelope when it comes to gore, I am glad the filmmakers chose not to do that. It must be said that in true indie fashion, the special effects on Animalistic where also done by David Liljeblad, who also co-wrote the movie and Tommy Wiklund, who was one of the three writers and co-Director of the movie.
The third writer and other co-Director is Sonny Laguna, who also did the visual effects for Animalistic. This filmmaking team has carved out a niche for themselves by making low budget Horror films, including the newest entry in a long sting of Puppet Master movies, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.
There is also nudity in Animalistic that is easy on the eyes. Some of Hanna Oldenburg’s performance is a little shaky but once the tension ramps up she does an amazing job.
Oldenburg is a Swedish born actress who trained in the dramatic arts in Australia, which could be why she has a convincing Australian accent in the film, guess it rubbed off on her.
At 83 minutes, Animalistic moves along at a good pace and is well edited. It is interesting to find out that it was completed and screened in 2015 at the Madrid International Fantastic Film Festival with the title of We Are Monsters, but is being released here in 2018 as Animalistic.
The sad ending to this review will be to note that actress Niki Nordenskjold, who played Shirley, passed away in late 2014 before she could see Animalistic released. Treasure every minute you have in this world, each kiss you share, each laugh you utter and movie you see, because it may be your last.