Cinepocalypse Movie Review: ANIMALS (2017)

Ah, the subtitle. It’s the bane of many an existence. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of friends or acquaintances who will shut down the DVD player (or I guess, close out the browser window) once a subtitle is spotted in an intro sequence. I, for one, don’t mind subtitles. I’ve found that I tend to love most foreign horror that I’ve sat down to watch (Martyrs, High Tension, Audition, Somos lo que hay and Funny Games to name a few), and I can even name an American film or two that’s enhanced by subtitles. Seriously, if you haven’t watched The VVItch with subtitles yet, you clearly don’t know what you’re missing out on. Literally.

Why am I talking about subtitles so much? Well, I was planning on using it as a nice segue to get into the latest film I dug into but ended up rambling so I’ll get right to the point: TIERE aka ANIMALS for us English speakers.

It’s hard to summarize this one, or talk about details of the story without feeling like I would be giving away some detail about the film but I’ll do my best. Actually, I’ll let IMDB do what it does best: “A collision with a sheep on a country road initiates a whole series of weird and unsettling experiences for Anna and Nick which ultimately leave them both incapable of being certain exactly where they are: in the real world, in their own imaginations – or in someone else’s imagination.”

Directed by Greg Zglinski, and starring Birgit Minichmayr and Philipp Hochmair, the film plays out like a long lost German episode of the “Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror” mashed together with a much less obscene Antichrist which is then directed by David Lynch, ala Season 3 of Twin Peaks. In other words, this movie is bonkers. Throughout most of the 90 minute run time, I wasn’t sure what to make of what I was seeing – confident that I had missed a crucial plot point or two. The film is misleading, intentionally so, which can’t help but leave you on the edge of your seat wondering where in the hell the story will go next. Or, for that matter, how it got to where it currently was. There are very few times that I’ll loudly exclaim “What the hell is going on?” without a trace of exasperation or annoyance, and my experience watching TIERE was one of those times.

The flick is largely carried by the two leads: Minichmayr and Philipp (Anna and Nick, respectively). Portraying a couple attempting to reignite the flames of old and work past recent infidelities, they play these roles with resolve carry the oddball story through to the final minutes of run time. While there are a few supporting characters (one of which – Mona Petri – was fantastic as well), the weight of the film falls on Anna as she is by and large the lens through which we view this world. As she loses her grip on reality, as do we. We don’t know whether to trust Nick or not, whether he has been faithful or if Anna’s accusations are baseless. What starts as cold hard fact, soon devolves into uncertainty.

It’s hard to say whether this is a film that needs repeat viewings to fully understand what Zglinski is trying to tell us, or if he got his point across exactly as intended with one. This is a film that would be best enjoyed with a group of friends who have an appreciation for cinema, a bottle of wine and an hour or two afterwards to spend discussing what was just viewed. If you’re looking for mindless entertainment, you might wanna look elsewhere, but if you want a fun conversation and a crazy-ass flick to kill an hour and a half then congratulations! You’re right on the money.

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