Hallucinatory horror can go either way. More often than not, overindulgence on visual trickery can be head-spinning and perplexing. Despite good intentions, similar stories such as STAY, ANTICHRIST or even SILENT HILL constantly rely on reshaping reality in ways that make the viewer question their sanity. And we as the audience have to ascertain the reliability of what is being presented. For me, the end-all-be-all of this type of story structure is JACOB’S LADDER but filmmakers like David Lynch specialize in a more cerebral, challenging form of subversion when it comes to the mind playing tricks on both the characters and the viewers. In ANIMALS, a Viennese couple on the rocks leave their up market city apartment in the hands of a stranger and head for a secluded but grand cabin in the Swiss countryside. Anna plans to start her thriller novel while husband Nick travels across the area searching for inspiration for his restaurant. The couple get off to a bad start when on route to their destination they hit a sheep. This one event throws the plot into a world of uncertainty of time and place as the couple begin to distrust one another and their own surroundings. Secrets are discovered and madness ensues as the characters become increasingly immersed in the dark and disorienting story of simply “What is going on?!” If that kind of headtrip is not your cup of tea, then steer clear. For me, I was intrigued by this interestingly layered and complex little puzzle box.
ANIMALS comes to us from relatively unknown director Greg Zglinski. With it beginning relatively calmly, Zglinski tricks the viewer into thinking this will be a thriller/drama about a trapped married couple and their secrets. Nothing overly spectacular there. Yet, as soon as they hit the road the tone changes. Dark dreams and sudden time gaps unsettle the initial calm and unravel the true essence of the film. A descent into paranoia with a hint of Lynchian obscurity becomes apparent. Zglinski & the actors execute wonderfully that feeling of “We don’t know what’s happening either” which only enhances the enjoyment of a film so idiosyncratic it’s even acceptable to inject some dark humor with a suave French talking cat. Set largely in the Swiss countryside with beautiful landscape shots, the film is aesthetically pleasing to say the least. Bringing an initial feeling of tranquillity before snatching it away with a disturbing sense of claustrophobia in the wide open countryside. ANIMALS is a film that has been done before, but the director convinces us throughout its languid pace that the unexpected (whether it's from the interior of a character or the exterior of the world they inhabit) is often right around the corner. This one creeped into me and it likely will for you too.