Saturday, August 29, 2015

Jonas Alexander Arnby's When Animals Dream

Cody dances in the moonlight with a Danish werewolf film, now in theatres and On Demand.

The feature directorial debut of Jonas Alexander Arnby, Danish horror film When Animals Dream centers on a teenage girl named Marie (Sonia Suhl) who is experiencing a tough time in life. She and her father have become caregivers for her mother, who has been left an invalid by a mysterious illness. She has gotten her first job, in a fish processing plant, where she is horribly bullied by her co-workers. Worst of all, she has noticed strange changes to her body. Changes that are symptoms that she has the same affliction her mother has.

This is no ordinary debilitating disease. This is something that Marie's doctor warns will leave her aggressive and covered with hair.

Two of my favorite films of the last fifteen years were the Canadian werewolf/female coming-of-age movie Ginger Snaps and the Swedish vampire/coming-of-age love story Let the Right One In, and When Animals Dream really feels like those two movies were put in a blender and this was the resulting purée. I'm not the first to compare When Animals Dream to those films, and if you're familiar with them I think might be inevitable that they'll come to mind while watching Arnby's film. You have a teenage girl becoming a werewolf, her sexuality emerging as she faces her monstrous transformation, a Nordic setting and somber tone, bullying, etc.

Animals does come up short in some areas where those predecessors excelled: the characters here aren't very interesting, with Marie herself being rather bland, and I often felt like the film was keeping me at arm's distance rather than drawing me in to make an emotional connection. But taking the film for what is there rather than what it's lacking, judging it on its own merits, it is a well made and well told horror tale, with a dream-like tone and slow pace that's worth sticking with for the 80 minute duration.

The director has said that he isn't really a werewolf fan, so he doesn't really delve deeply into that aspect or go all-out with it. This causes his approach to lycanthropy to be quite unique and intriguing - it's largely just a disease that is destroying a young girl's life. And just happens to cause bursts of violence.

Arnby did a great job with his first film, showing promise that he has an interesting career ahead of him. I recommend giving a viewing to When Animals Dream, especially if you're a fan of Ginger Snaps and/or Let the Right One In and would like to see something that's in the same vein.

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