Madeline Deering’s ‘Spirit Animal’ (2019) Movie Review – A Slice Of SOV Gold

Shot On Video (SOV) genre entries have honestly been hit or miss with me. I have often found SOV hard to follow, with the sound being so abysmal that I can’t decipher the dialogue, or too grainy of a picture, and so on. But there have also been some SOV flicks that, in my opinion, come from seriously creative minds that dole out some unique ingenuity while achieving satisfying levels of DIY gore.

SOV horror had its heyday during the ’80s and ’90s with more well-known titles such as Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984), Video Violence (1987), Things (1989), Violent Shit (1989) and The McPherson Tape (1989). Creators of the extremely specific sub-genre pride themselves on making feature length movies for mere dollars that are shot on video and hopefully entertaining to the viewer. Frequently involving far out narratives and always utilizing minuscule budgets, the members of the SOV family have spawned a rabid fanbase who actively celebrates and collects these efforts.

Helping carry the torch for SOV goodness is a film titled Spirit Animal directed by newcomer Madeline Deering, which is premiering at the third annual Grossfest held in Washington, Pennsylvania, this coming July 25th and 26th. Grossfest is an intimate yet enthusiastic gathering of independent filmmakers, artists, actors, and fans who love every bit of SOV and what it stands for.

Spirit Animal steps endearingly into the time-honored horror trope … don’t tread in the woods. Filmed on a Magnavox VHS camera, co-written and co-starring both Deering and Joseph Russio (Lucifer’s Unholy Desires 2012)—who also created some of the masks featured—Spirit Animal pans out to be an analog experiment done right. Giving thanks to creators such as John Waters, William Castle, the Polonia Brothers and others, Spirit Animal does end up tapping into the vein of what they represent—uber-independent, unpredictable cinema.

After a massacre occurred on a campground twenty years earlier, a group of friends gather to celebrate the New Year near the same area. Unfortunately, they encounter a killer who seemingly embodies different spirit animals to help him commit brutal killings and indulge in some killer puns.

One of the several Spirit Animals in Deering’s SOV horror.

Spirit Animal is wickedly funny, coming across as a passion project for all involved. The fake television ad for a pizza joint named Dingo Pizza and the outrageous death scenes coupled with the Smell-O-Vision card help make this film utterly enjoyable. That’s right—an old-school scratch-n-sniff card—a fun way to allow viewers to interact with the movie. Also on the card is a drinking game I’m interested in playing with anyone who may be down. There’s a good time to be had by all with this campy, cautionary tale warning us to respect nature and her creatures.

Limited Edition VHS with Smell-O-Vision card.

If this piqued your interest, don’t hesitate to head over to the NekroShark Films’ Facebook page to purchase a limited release DVD or VHS copy of Spirit Animal. Or, if you’re near southwestern Pennsylvania this weekend and would enjoy perusing some low budget cinema and DIY horror, check out Grossfest III at the historic George Washington Hotel.

About Danni Winn

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