Courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing

Do you know your neighbors? Do you know what they are up to? In recent decades, we’ve become less and less social with our neighbors, and Brendan Steere’s ANIMOSITY plays into the fears that come with not knowing who lives next door.

Maybe you are like me and have heard about Brendan Steere’s 2019 film Velocipastor, a B-level horror-comedy about a priest that’s a dinosaur, and also features a pimp named Frankie Mermaid. It’s an overtly silly film that is great to watch in a group setting a la MST3000. So, when I was asked for the opportunity to go back into Brendan Steere’s filmography to review his debut film ANIMOSITY from 2014, I jumped at it.

This film isn’t silly. In fact, it’s as smart and unsafe as anything coming out in the horror genre right now.

Surprisingly, this film was made on a budget of $14,000 and as a film school thesis. That said, this film does come with a few of the “student film” stigmas. Certain shots aren’t perfectly lit, and the sets are practically bare at times. But I’ll admit that this is the greatest student film I’ve ever seen, and I’m serious about that.

This movie jumps to serial killer mayhem right in the opening credits before bringing us to something more quaint. A couple, Mike (Marcin Paluch) and Carrie (Tracy Willet), have just purchased a new home in the woods. It seems like a peaceful place away from any city life. Unfortunately, as soon as they move in and Mike goes off to work, Carrie begins to question who her neighbors are and what they are up to, especially Tom (Stephan Goldbach), a man that Carrie is alarmed by when he is shooting his gun right in front of her home.

Still from ANIMOSITY

The film quickly pulls focus away from Carrie as it introduces other characters like Carl (Tom Martin) and Nicole (Alyssa Kempinski) who add to the chaos and mystery behind this thriller.

The performances from Tracy Willet and Stephan Goldbach stand out, especially Goldbach as he portrays a man who is insane yet completely reserved. I found myself more afraid of him than most big bad boogeymen because of how much I don’t understand him and how much he would probably want to murder me. Tom Martin also feels psychotic but also looks the part of everyman, making him terrifying in a different way.

The rest of the film plays out through Carrie’s eyes. We discover the mysteries within the woods just as she does. We’ve seen movies about isolation before or killers in the woods, so this isn’t new terrain. But, for a first-time filmmaker to understand the female point of view he is writing from and to deliver it in such a surprising and vulnerable way, it has to be commended.

I’ve now seen the bulk of Brendan Steere‘s filmography, and it is more than clear that he is capable of making a gripping movie as seen by ANIMOSITY as well as Velocipastor. With that said, I’d love to see this storyteller get a larger budget, so he can tell a story to its fullest extent.

ANIMOSITY is now available on Digital. A sequel is currently in the works.

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