Werewolf flick doesn't offer enough sick kicks.
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Last week saw the wide release of the cartoonishly funny high school lesbian “Fight Club” flick “Bottoms.” This week sees the release of the high school lesbian werewolf film “My Animal” (available in select theaters on Friday, Sept. 8 and on VOD beginning Friday, Sept. 15). What’s next – the high school lesbian sword and sandals epic? I’m down for all of these movies on paper. Lord knows we’ve seen enough stories about straight, white dudes, but they still need to engaging and/or good. Alas, “My Animal” is ultimately neither of these things.
Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) is an aspiring hockey goalie with a supportive father Henry (Canadian genre mainstay Stephen McHattie), an abusive, alcoholic mother Patti (Heidi von Palleske) and a pair of twerpy, hockey-playing little brothers Cooper and Hardy (Charles and Harrison Halpenny, respectively).
Heather doesn’t really have any friends until the arrival of Jonny (Amandla Stenberg), a competitive figure skater with issues of her own. The girls’ friendship develops into something deeper … much to the chagrin of Jonny’s on-again, off-again, letterman jacket-wearing, jock boyfriend Rick (Cory Lipman). As the clash between Heather and Rick intensifies, she’ll need to control the animal within. See Henry’s a lycanthrope … a trait his daughter inherited from her dear old Dad.
“My Animal” is the feature directorial debut of Jacqueline Castel, who cut her teeth on music videos and short films. (She also co-edited alongside Marc Boucrot and is one of the army of executive producers … Stenberg’s another.) The script by Jae Matthews (a member of the band Boy Harsher) is OK, but springs few surprises. I knew where this depressing slog was going way before it got there. As scored by Augustus Muller (also of Boy Harsher) and shot by Bryn McCashin, the flick employs the same synth score and neon lighting that have been so in vogue with low-budget genre offerings for the past half-decade. Been there, done that.
Menuez and Stenberg both give good performances … I just wish the movie gave them something meatier to play. McHattie is always a welcome presence and brings considerable warmth to the proceedings. I was tickled to see “Kid in the Hall” Scott Thompson turn up as Jonny’s overprotective papa/skating partner – he’s still a hoot.
I don’t know if it was a creative decision or a budgetary one (I’m assuming the latter), but when Heather or Henry become werewolves there’s nary a transformation sequence and they simply cut to an actual wolf. Such is the case, why did the filmmakers even attempt to add this to lycanthrope lore? This easily would’ve worked and probably would’ve been better as a melodrama about a gay girl from a dysfunctional family navigating love and small-town prejudice.
I dig werewolf movies even if a lot of ‘em aren’t especially entertaining – the only ones I truly stan are “An American Werewolf in London” and “Dog Soldiers.” “My Animal” is as Canadian as Kraft Dinner, but you’re better off first-time watching or revisiting the similarly Canuck, lycanthropic and queer “Ginger Snaps” if you’ve got a hankering for such things.