At the start of My Animal, Jacqueline Castel's exclusive horror film about lesbian monsters, Heather (the stunning Bobbi Salvor Menuez) sits on her knees in a white nightgown as the gray light of the TV pours in through the window. the face of the full moon covers it. The dark circles under his eyes deepen, blood flows from his nose, his body twists, bones snap, tendons twist. He moans and crawls across the carpet in the darkened living room, then leaps out of the house and out of the woods for a thrilling reimagining of the monster.
Again, it's not just a dedication to the genre: the rhythmic electronic soundtrack of the 80s, smooth images of trees in shades of gray or aggressive, hand-shaking movements in a snowy forest are reminiscent of a Castel film. An episode of "Beauty and the Beast" at Heather's TV at the Fairy Tale Theater plunges us into the sensual, morbid sexual politics of Castel's vision.
"Love can make a man a beast, and love can make an ugly man beautiful," said the prince. And love will fully awaken Heather.
A dark coming-of-age tale, My Animal uses a slow build of tension to draw us and the film's protagonist into a devastating catharsis. Through Heather, a teenager who lives in a remote town and becomes romantically involved with Johnny (Amandla Stenberg), an overworked figure skater, director Castell brings to life for the first time the strange subtext of identity change inherent in most parts of life. nightmares. Legends of the Lycans. let the bad scene unfold.
Not only is Heather bullied by the local kids in a manner often reminiscent of "Carrie," but her personal life is in shambles. Her younger twin brothers find her sexuality repulsive, her drunken mother (Heidi von Palleske) oscillates between soothing and spiteful, and Heather can't leave the house after midnight without revealing her identity (even if she's wearing a red gown). dream). . red bed). The only family member who fully supports him is his weak Lycan father (the wise Stephen McHattie).
Heather finds comfort in Johnny. Often bullied by his coach and ignored by his girlfriend, Johnny is, like Heather, at least emotionally cross, despite his affinity for a group of cool kids. Their relationship boils not only because of their shared feelings of separation, but also because of the stress Heather feels when she thinks she can't reveal her sexual and physical identity.
Based on Jae Mathew's screenplay of young adults, weird horror flicks like Blade + Heart and The Hunger, and homages to 1980s films, this serious, metaphorical direction gives Castel a powerful opportunity to turn the usual teenage angst. disturbing fragments. commute. For example, in one scene, Heather's fun with Johnny and her friends goes sour when Heather passes out after taking LSD. As the clock strikes midnight, Heather walks in before turning into a full monster.
The monster scenes become a hazy, wildly swinging frenzy that approaches the point of burnout. This explosion creates a burning sensation as Heather and Johnny get closer. Cinematographer Bryn McCashin fills the scenes with passionate red tones, his lens captures sensual fragments swirling in the relaxed spirit of the Greek imagination of Eros. There is a deliberate symmetry to Menuez and Stenberg's play. Menuez is clearly cautious, calm and reserved, but his eyes widen with defiance. Stenberg additionally creates a sense of solitude that takes on the function of a side dish in the desert landscape, but definitely fulfills its role.
In a film about free speech, it's odd that Johnny, who appears to be the only black man in this remote, snowy town, walks free in a mid-1980s film. As with Heather's family, it's dangerously close to the only note she can follow in this ghostly setting, but it can be difficult. The city is equally amazing. This opacity created by Castel is undoubtedly due to the script's adherence to fairy tale tropes.
At one point, when tragedy strikes and Johnny and Heather are upset, Castel throws in so many looks at once that you wonder if he can really pull it all together. You begin to ask yourself more questions: what is the place of horror in this film? What does catharsis and freedom mean to this character? When does the killing begin?
But Castel is a smart director. He spends most of "My Animal" throwing "breadcrumbs" as an overt reference to "Carrie," leading the audience to an answer they thought they already knew. He pushes and pushes, igniting our interest into an ecstatic frenzy of blood. But if you came to My Animal just for the slaughter, Castel will not give in to that desire.
It's a tricky trick he pulls off. One that looks so clean and elegant on her face. However, the film is not about revenge. It is a search for understanding, for mastery, for comforting love, not in its absence, but in its nature. Scarred Heather finds love again. In My Animal, Castel delivers a safe horror film based on a radically sensitive but no less violent touch.
My Animal premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Paramount will release the film at a later date.
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