Tom Humberstone


horror week - day 5

When Animals Dream (2014)

"I'm transforming into a monster, but I need to have a lot of sex first. Do you think you could help me?"

Quick summary: Marie, a young woman on a remote island in Denmark, is perturbed by new physical changes that appear to unsettle her father, the local doctor, and the island's small community. What do they know that Marie doesn't? And does it have anything to do with her mother's debilitating illness?

I wanted to watch some contemporary creature feature films tonight and this - a quiet, beautifully shot, Danish werewolf film - hit the spot. At the time, I think the film was compared a lot to Let The Right One In and I can understand why. The film prioritises atmosphere and and quiet restraint, the script has enough faith in the audience to allow most of the story to unravel without the aid of dialogue, and the audience's empathy is carefully directed towards the "monster" of the film.

As with films like Jennifer's Body, Teeth, The Company Of Wolves and Ginger Snaps, the film strongly ties the supernatural mythology to the character's sexual awakening and treats the male fear of this as the real monster. The way this small fishing town treats Marie develops from casual suspicion to sexually menacing "pranks" leaving me desperate for Marie to go full Carrie.

The soundtrack, like the film, is subtle and smart too. Thumbs up all round.

I also watched:

The Roost (2005)

"I won't let the bat out of the bag just yet."

Quick summary: Some horror fodder/young adults are on their way to a wedding when the car breaks down near a barn full of aggressive zombie bats.

I thought I'd go for a contemporary vampire film for my second creature feature - and Ti West's The Roost felt like the right choice. I enjoyed House Of The Devil and had since caught up with The Innkeepers and TheSacrament (both are great, I think The Innkeepers might be my favourite of West's so far). While this does indeed have bats in it, it's more of a small scale zombie film than something like Near Dark.

This is West's first feature and as such, it has a noticeably lower budget than his other films. But it's still a recognisably Ti West joint - with aggressively long takes and a steady ramp-up of tension. There's also a nice appearance from Tom Noonan as a creepy presenter of "Frightmare Theatre" - a black and white Tales From The Crypt style show that bookends the main feature (as well as interrupting the film when the characters make the mistake of displaying some affection for each other. The monsters).

It struck me that the film was made and released at the height of the "torture porn" era of horror at the turn of the century. In that context, I can see The Roost being an almost subversive statement of intent from West.

It's a Glass Eye Pix film so there's, of course, a cameo from Larry Fessenden. Long-time collaborator Graham Reznick (who wrote Until Dawn with Fessenden) does great work on the sound design too.

I also watched West's student film Prey which was on the DVD. It's a strong, lean five minute chase sequence.

Ti West's next film should be out soon - a western revenge movie with Ethan Hawke - In A Valley Of Violence - should be interesting.

Tonight: I'm thinking The Hallow (2015) and The Battery (2012).

Check out the archive of the horror week here.