Animal Among Us
Directed by John Woodruff
Written by Jonathan Murphy
Starring Larisa Oleynik, Christian Oliver, Erin Daniels, Christine Donlon, and Jonathan Murphy.
I love watching a film that makes me want to immediately jump on a 2-hour podcast to discuss the intricacies with fellow reviewers. However, those films are oftentimes the most difficult subjects of spoiler-free reviews. Animal Among Us (available 11/19/2019 on VOD) certainly falls into this category. Disguised as a straightforward creature feature, this film combines elements of a standard bigfoot movie, slasher flick, drama, and erotic thriller with wonderful balance.
Roland Baumgarner (Christian Oliver: Speed Racer, 2008) wrote a book on the Merrymaker murders from 15 years prior. Two teenage girls were found slaughtered by the owners at the campground and with no evidence of a human assailant, the deaths were attributed to an animal attack. After being closed since the murders, the terminally ill owner decides to reopen the camp to reclaim what her family lost. On her deathbed, she writes Roland a letter inviting him to be part of the reopening ceremony. She has passed the torch to her two daughters Anita (Larisa Oleynik: Mad Men, 2010-2015 ) and Poppy (Christine Donlon: Escape Room, 2017) who will be alone in running the camp. Against the wishes of his pregnant wife (Erin Daniels: House of 1000 Corpses, 2003), Roland makes the lengthy drive to witness the historic resurrection of the site that made him famous.
Meanwhile, two Bigfoot enthusiasts at the camp are attacked by a mysterious creature that is most likely who killed the young girls. Poppy and Anita reluctantly enlist the help of their sketchy ex-stepdad Burl (Don Frye: The Ant Bully, 2006) as a clean-up man to keep this encounter under wraps. However, when the creature begins to stalk the entire group, all six must band together to capture and destroy the monster.
And here is where I will stop. Questions of what the monster really is, Roland’s inability to be faithful to his wife, Poppy’s flippant attitude, Anita’s cold insistence to open the camp and Burl’s questionable demeanor push the film into many unexpected turns that come together in a perfectly woven mesh of all of its elements. The simple tagline is indeed incredibly complex: This story is about a monster.