Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Film Shoot Turns from the Ordinary into a Bloodbath with Animus: A Movie Review

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*full disclosure: an online screening of this film was provided by Midnight Releasing.

Directors/writers: Quin Davis.

Cast: John Bernath, Megan Davis, Caitlin Singer, J.A. Cuffs Bratten, Brandon Lee Pittman, Tiffany Ann Bicheler, and Trinidad Amaya.

It is amazing how many filmmakers start in horror with their first feature film. Both directors Quin Davis and Wade Stai are getting their feet wet in this slasher, titled Animus. Thankfully, their first attempt at horror is an exciting time. In the story, a killer awaits five film students in an isolated asylum. Unfortunately, only Maya, played by Megan Davis, has any backstory or depth of character. The minor characters are underdeveloped and they barely serve a purpose in the picture. Other film elements such as the shooting style brings quality back into this picture. Well shot, Animus is an entertaining horror picture that will satisfy indie fans of the bloody slasher sub-genre.

College student Maya sets out to make a documentary for her final film project. She recruits four of her classmates: Angel (Caitlin Singer), Daniel (Brandon Lee Pittman), Mekalia (Tiffany Ann Bicheler) and Lucas (J. A. Cuffs Bratten) to film the project and record sound. They set off for the local insane asylum. It is here where an illegitimate child was tortured and killed by a local staff doctor. Now, Isaac's (John Bernath) ghost haunts the asylum and the film crew. This film crew is unable to stop Isaac's swinging blade and mute wrath. Soon, this film project is put on hold, when there is no one left to hold the camera.

Quin Davis' first script creates an interesting story; yet, Davis partially forgets about his characters. Most of the characters are uncompelling. Daniel is a coward when the chips are down. He runs at the first sight of blood. Angel, Daniel's casual girlfriend, is given a little more attention. Angel enjoys supernatural television shows and getting freaky in the back of the film crew's van. Lucas is just along for the ride and Mekalia only gets in a scream or two before finding the sharp end of the blade. A few of these minor characters could have used an additional line of dialogue or two to fill out their characterizations. The minor characters are not fleshed out enough and the actors have little to do but deliver their lines in an artificial way. The acting on this film, thus, suffers.

Filmmakers Quin Davis and Wade Stai are best when behind the camera. Both directors shoot the picture in a visually appealing way. There are exterior and interior shots. As well, they use a harness on the protagonist to show her desperate emotions. The inside of the asylum is especially well shot as the crew uses just enough shadow to keep the film unsettling. One shot involving a pool of blood creates some much needed horror, late in the picture. Angel is trapped in this grimy water with floating heads and flesh. Do heads float? Much of Animus is shot with a superb shooting style, which enhances the visual appeal of the film.

Only a few detriments hamper the film's entertainment value. This picture could have used more conflict early in the feature. Events do not begin to unfold until halfway through the film. As well, some of the many gore scenes involve obvious prosthetics. The kills onscreen are brutal, but the after effects reduce some of the film's believability. These foibles are minor and much of the film is still a joy to watch.

Animus is a solid entry into the slasher genre. The cat-and-mouse scenes late in the picture are reminiscent of John Carpenter's characters: Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. The darkened set of an abandoned mine creates for a great finale. As mentioned, directors Quin Davis and Wade Stai take great care with their visual style, while the gore onscreen is fairly consistent throughout the final act. Animus is a stylish indie slasher that will leave many with nightmares!

Overall: 7 out of 10 (characters needed more angles and depth, the sets were excellent, the finale was tense, lots of good action scenes throughout Act III).

*the title of this film makes this watcher believe that much of the horror is imagined by the central character, Maya.

A trailer for this feature is available at Acort International:

Animus at Acort International

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