17th Sep2018

‘Animalistic’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Hanna Oldenburg, Ralf Beck, Torbjörn Andersson, Niki Nordenskjöld, Cheryl Murphy, Johanna Wagrell | Written by Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund, David Liljeblad | Directed by Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund

animalistic-poster

Animalistic comes from the directorial team of Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wirklund. A duo whose have decent form when it comes to genre filmmaking. Their previous film, Wither was a nod to the Evil Dead movies; and Laguna was also behind the SUPERB Swedish winter-set slasher film Blood Runs Cold, one of my favourite films of 2011 (was it really that long ago?). The pair were also in the directors chair for the recent Puppet Master reboot/redux, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich – which is undoubtedly one of the reasons Wild Eye Releasing chose to distribute this particular movie right now… after all, this film, under the title We Are Monsters, originally debuted in 2015 across the rest of the world.

Animalistic tells the story of Emma, a businesswoman who travels from Australia to the U.S to sign a controversial oil contract. On her way to a press conference, she jumps into a taxi. Soon after, to her surprise, she is attacked and drugged by the taxi driver. She wakes up tied to a chair in a filthy cabin. Emma soon learns she’s the night’s amusement for a man named Jim and his loyal associates Pete and Shirley. She must now do everything she can to survive…

If you’ve seen Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, you’ll know that that film has a perverse, nasty streak running through it, devoid of any politically-correct leanings. now I thought that was down to the script from Brawl in Cell Block 99 scribe S. Craig Zahler, but after seeing Animalistic it’s clear that Laguna and Wiklund are just as responsible for the brutality of that film – for the brutality here goes FAR further than any for the duo’s other horror work.

Of course rape-revenge movies aren’t for everyone, and that exactly what Animalistic is – a rape-revenge movie – and one that really pushes both aspects of this particular genre to the limit, making the original I Spit on Your Grave look tame by comparison (though its clear that the remake of, and sequels to, Meir Zarchi’s film have had an influence here). Yet whilst the brutality, and downright nihilism, maybe more than expected, at the same time Laguna and Wiklund never actually stray from the all too familiar format that was laid down in the likes of the aforementioned I Spit… 

However there are also hints that Laguna, Wiklund and co-writer David Liljeblad were aiming for something a little more with Animalistic. It’s interesting to note that Emma, who’s subjected to some real extremes of torture and degradation, is a rich oil executive – the kind of corporate “big wig” that many say keeps down the little guy, the working man. And both of Emma’s captors, Jim and Pete, are without a doubt the typical working man – capturing women in some sort of power struggle with their own identity: by taking, raping and killing they have the power that their everyday life doesn’t. So having Emma be an oil exec is a great metaphor for the current socio-political climate and the issues the public have with corporate greed.

Then there’s Pete, one of her captors – the more lumbering, simple, of the two (there’s always one in these films isn’t there?)  – who seems to be obsessed with watching slasher movies; the audience shown clips from films he’s watching, where the heroine is constantly running in sheer terror from her captors. Whilst that same scenario plays out in the film, you have to wonder whether the filmmakers, through Pete, were actually having a dig at genre fans who love this type of particular horror film?

Speaking of which, Animalistic is not the first Swedish rape-revenge movie, that honour goes to Thriller: A Cruel Picture, a film that shares a similarly grimey look and feel as this. Like that exploitation classic this is certainly not a film for everyone, even some genre fans. But for those who like their horror of the rape-revenge variety and there’s certainly an audience out there, me included, then Animalistic is a solid recommend.

Animalistic is out now on DVD and VOD, in the US, from Wild Eye Releasing.

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