06th Jan2020

‘Animal Among Us’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Larisa Oleynik, Erin Daniels, Heather Tom, Christine Donlon, Christian Oliver, Jasmine Dustin, Jonathan Murphy, Don Frye, Eric Tiede, Whitney Davis | Written by Jonathan Murphy | Directed by John Woodruff

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Fifteen years ago, two teenage girls were murdered at Merrymaker Campgrounds. The case was filed as an animal attack, the camp was condemned, and the killer never found. Now, years later Poppy (Christine Donlon) and Anita Bishop (Larisa Oleynik) get set to re-open their parent’s camp. And they even invite Roland Baumgarner (Christian Oliver), the novelist who made his name by penning a bestseller about the case, to the opening.

Billed as yet another Bigfoot/sasquatch movie, Animal Among Us is actually anything but. It is in fact a melding of genre tropes: monster movie, cabin in the woods film, survival horror, dramatic thriller, all rolled into one – sadly – dull genre film saved only by a surprising performance by former Alex Mack Larisa Oleynik.

Yes, for all its possibilities, and there are many (for one the film could have played up the oddity of his characters talking like they lived in the 50s – which is instead something of a throwaway), John Woodruff’s film is ultimately a mundane affair. Seemingly walking through the usual cliches and stereotypes of the Bigfoot/monster movie before taking a left turn into a whole different territory. And by left-turn I mean Woodruff thinks its clever to turn a Bigfoot film into a backwoods “hillbilly family in the woods” film – completely at odds with what has come before it.

My guess is that writer Jonathan Murphy and director John Woodruff thought the swift change in tone and story would make for a shock twist to proceedings, providing a much needed point of difference to the multitude of films with a similar story. In a lot of films that would be the case, however the proceeding three-quarters of Animal Among Us that comes before said twist is so dull that when the left-turn does come it is more a “thank god for that” moment rather than a shock.

If only the entire of Animal Among Us had been as interesting as last that quarter – where the film winds together a truly intriguing story that would’ve probably worked as a stand alone short in its own right. Truths are revealed, bonds broken, families torn apart and villains get their comeuppance – all within a short space of time. Talk about saving the best till last… Unfortunately a great denouement can’t make up for the rest of the by-the-numbers plotting the audience has to sit through to get there!

Animal Among Us is available on VOD and DVD now from Uncork’d Entertainment.

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