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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Animal (Blu-ray)
Animal (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // Unrated // February 17, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $19.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted January 30, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by Brett Simmons (and produced by Drew Barrymore, yes… that Drew Barrymore), 2014's Animal is hardly going to win any awards for originality but for the creature feature fans out there who appreciate ‘guys in suits' over CGI rendered beasties, this is worth a look.

The movie revolves around a camping trip led by Jeff (Parker Young) who is accompanied by his foxy girlfriend Mandy (Elizabeth Gilles), his loving stepsister Alissa (Keke Palmer) and her beau Matt (Jeremy Sumpter), and their mutual pal Sean (Paul Iacono). These guys are looking forward to getting away from it all a bit and leaving behind the daily grind for some well-earned vacation time in the middle of nowhere. Soon after the set up camp in the woods, they learn that they are not alone: there's a vicious, flesh-eating monster running around in the area and this thing is hungry. Once they figure this out, they quickly decide, hey, that abandoned cabin in the area… we could hide out there and maybe, just maybe, find a way to call for help.

So they make their way to said cabin but soon learn that it's not nearly as abandoned as they thought it would be. In fact, there are three people already inside: Carl (Thorsten Kaye), Vicky (Joey Lauren Adams), and Douglas (Amaury Nolasco). These three are well aware of what's waiting for them outside. As night falls and tensions rise, they realize that there's no way any of them are going to make it out of the cabin before day break, a lesson some of the less fortunate characters learn the hard way. This leaves them with one choice, and that's to wait things out, but that's never ideal when a killer monster prowls the area and those inside the cabin aren't always getting along so well…

Briskly paced and made as a throwback to the monster movies of yesteryear, Animal is highlighted by the nifty ‘man in a suit' style effects work that plays a big part in the more memorable of the movie's set pieces. Those who prefer practical effects work over digitally crafted beasts should enjoy the way in which the effects technicians ply their trade here. The creature is not only cool to look at but fairly intimidating as well pretty efficient and effective in the way that it moves and interacts with its environment. The movie offers up enough monster related mayhem and gory carnage to entertain and while the feature is digitally shot (and it looks digitally shot) and less successful as a throwback for that reason, to the benefit of anyone watching the movie puts entertainment value front and center.

As far as the cast are concerned, pretty Elizabeth Gilles delivers the most memorable performance here, and that's not just because she is a beautiful woman but because she's a capable actress as well. The core of the story, at least the human element of the story, is anchored by her relationship with Parker Young as Jeff and Keke Palmer as Jeff's stepsister. All three do fine work here, and not to take away from the supporting players, but the three leads get the most character development and are therefore the more interesting of the bunch.

The story isn't the most original (at times this feels like Feast) but Animal does offer up a bit more character development than you might expect and throws in a few decent, appropriate twists before the end credits play. If it's not a modern masterpiece of horror, it is at least an entertaining monster movie.

The Blu-ray:

The Video:

Animal arrives on Blu-ray framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. This was shot on high definition digital video so obviously there are no issues with grain or print damage. The image is crisp and clean and nicely detailed and while there is some noticeable shimmer (mostly on ripples across the lake) the disc is well authored. There are no problems with heavy compression artifacts or crush and given that the vast majority of the movie takes place outside under sunny skies, we wind up with some really nice color reproduction here though there is some obvious tinting in some scenes. Greens in the trees of the forest early in the film stand out nicely while the leathery color and toning of the creature looks sharp and accurately colored. Black levels are nice and shadow detail is fine as well.

Sound:

The main audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio with subtitles provided in English only, though and optional English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is also included. The 5.1 mix is quite good, there's some solid channel separation in the front left and right speakers throughout most of the movie and the rear channels fill in with the score and some pertinent directional effects when the story calls for it. Are there scenes that could have been more involving in terms of the mix? Yes, but for a movie made on a modest budget this mix is solid. Levels are nicely balanced throughout and dialogue is always easy to hear and plenty clean. The score has good depth and range to it and there are no problems to report here.

Extras:

The extras on the disc are highlighted by a running audio commentary by director Brett Simmons and his cinematographer Scott Winig. It's a fairly scene specific talk that covers all the requisite bases, so as such we learn about the casting, the script and some changes that were made, the effects work and the locations used as well as what went into getting some of the more difficult set pieces in the can. This is informative and well-paced and if you're hankering to learn all you can about the movie, this'll do the trick nicely.

Outside of that the disc also provides just under two minutes of Cast Interviews where we hear from Keke Palmer and Elizabeth Gillies very briefly. This is kind of a throwaway piece, really. There's also a Behind The Scenes piece that runs a hair over three minutes, so it's also pretty brief, but it gives us a look at some of the effects work. A teaser and a trailer for the feature close out the supplements alongside menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Animal doesn't reinvent the wheel and it doesn't really bring anything new to the genre, but if you're into monster movies done the old fashioned way and appreciate practical effects over digital, you'll probably get a kick out of this. The Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory's Scream Factory imprint has some okay extras and a decent high definition presentation. Recommended for monster movie fans, a decent rental for the masses.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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