My Animal

My Animal
My Animal
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If Halloween is really gay Christmas like what many in the LGBTQ+ community fondly call it, then My Animal is an excellent trailer. Jacqueline Castel directs and Jae Matthews writes My Animal as their first feature film, which follows Heather (played by Bobbi Salvör Menuez a non-binary actor) as she navigates her small northern town as a misfit desperate to keep her deepest secrets hidden. Tomboyish Heather wants to play in the all-male hockey team of her town; secretly, however, she’s queer and a werewolf – she’s born out of family curse.

Every full moon, her father — also a werewolf — and her overbearing alcoholic of a mother chain Heather to her bed while she goes through lycan transformation. It would not be unreasonable if this was largely done to save face for the family rather than being meant mainly for protection purposes. And for the most part, Heather seems to have accepted her fate (as a social pariah, as a werewolf, and as a young woman with very little opportunity in her small, conservative town).

However when Jonny (Amandla Stenberg), an ice-skater who herself has some hidden pasts comes around using Heather’s rink on ice again arousing interest from Heather things spiral out of control fast enough. The attraction between them becomes totally overwhelming; hence Heather and Jonny engage in an intensely passionate but highly tumultuous affair that threatens all that has been built up about heather so far.

By now hardcore horror fans have probably heard of some of the best werewolf movies tht cinema has ever had such as 1941 film The Wolf Man or 80s gems such as The Howling or even more recent attempts like Underworld franchise. But instead of going down this usual path, My Animal chooses to navigate moodily through our protagonists’ internal lives rather than focusing on traditional gore and body horrors.

In this sense, Heather’s lycanthropy here becomes a kind of metaphor for her queerness. This recalls the 2000 cult horror film Ginger Snaps where Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) underwent her first werewolf transformation in conjunction with her first period and her first desires of sex which then turned out violent. However, in My Animal, Castel highlights more on the relationship between Heather and Jonny by navigating through the complexities of queer desire circulating around the homoerotic space as hyper-heteronormative as a sports arena.

In this respect Menuez and Stenberg are tremendous MVPs for their roles who give subtle performances portraying women trapped within social walls created by society. Menuez brings forth a certain quiet desperation to her role as Heather that is quite saddening for anyone watching. Meanwhile, Stenberg is just appealing as she is soulful, once again proving why she’s such a star. Furthermore, their chemistry together never comes into question – instead it simply oozes out of them throughout My Animal – making it completely spellbinding when they walk that fine line between love and lust, need and want or fear versus recklessness. You know it’s doomed but you can’t help but cheer for their forbidden love story anyway

Another person who deserves recognition is the cinematographer, Bryn McCashin and production designer Emma Doyle. In My Animal, red has been used throughout with even walls of the ice rink and Heather’s hockey jersey as well as her sheets and curtains being awash in it; a seemingly predictable choice for a romantic werewolf movie that contrasts against other aspects of it. McCashin’s lens captures this blood-and-ice contrast, fluid and sensual one moment, then sharp and assured the next, mirroring the journeys our lovers are on.

But where the film falls somewhat short is in its follow-through on some of the questions that its aims to answer. Her greatest strength here—Castel’s sharp instinct for mood and atmosphere—is also at times the film’s greatest weakness. There moments when horror and romance are opposed to each other with one always waiting on deck while another has its moment in the limelight By trying to be many things-—queer romance, sociopolitical allegory, werewolf horror—the film becomes slightly spread thin enough so that by third act more is desired.

However, My Animal’s cast and crew are clearly not lacking in talent. They know how to make movies; they know what they’re doing here [this seems redundant – “her team certainly knew how to make a movie”]. Some of their risks may not have worked out; nevertheless, they dared to re-imagine something that had been around for over a century now. This is something when considering how fragile today’s film business is. It glows with promises of exciting fare—brighter than all full moons combined!

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