My Animal, the feature-length directorial debut from music video cinematographer Jacqueline Castel, is a dramatic horror that offers a unique breath of fresh air to the coming-of-age sub-genre.
Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez, seen briefly in Under the Silver Lake) is a fountain of identity crises: she’s hesitant to own her individuality in her small town, she’s at a tug o’ war between her flawed parents (Stephen McHattie, Heidi von Palleske), and she conceals a beastly alter-ego. This character study, written by Boy Harsher musician/short film screenwriter Jae Matthews, feels too on the nose when the tertiary conflict is used to share the efforts of Heather’s other issues, but the angst is authentic in Matthews’ script and matched by a striking lead performance. When Heather meets another wallflower, Jonny (Amandia Stenberg of Bodies Bodies Bodies), each crisis gradually moves in on Heather; forcing her to be more confrontational towards her own insecurities.
My Animal is comparable to the Canadian cult hit Ginger Snaps. Not just because both films embrace their scenery and feature wolfish creatures being held from within, but because these stories represent pivotal turning points in teenage maturity. Castel’s does an excellent job balancing fantasy with reality for the first two-thirds of My Animal. The final stretch is where the message becomes mucky, suggesting that being pushed to personal extreme limits is the only way for someone to come to terms with who they are.
My Animal is now playing in select theatres.
The movie hits VOD and Digital HD on Tuesday, December 12.
For more information on the festival, visit the official BITS webpage here.
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