There’s a great film somewhere inside Animosity, the directorial debut of Brendan Steere. At the heart of the story is a vile horror that wrenches your gut and as its truths are slowly revealed, viewers are thrown into a pit of hopelessness. This is a dark film. Like, wicked dark with psychological tension that threatens to become unbearable at times. Aside from the core narrative, there are other elements at play, other pieces of the story’s mystery that make it feel convoluted or padded even. All of the extraneous elements, as well as the confusing motivations of one of the central characters, weaken the emotional punch I think Steere was going for.
Then again, Animosity is a film that warrants multiple viewings. From its bloody ominous prologue to its, well, bloody conclusion, the film unravels a mystery with many pieces while it spirals its audience into darkness. Was I too overwhelmed by the film’s bleak tone (seriously, it’s that bleak) to put the pieces together? It’s a possibility. What I do know for certain is that the feeling I was left with overall was fatigue from enduring such a despairing film. Then again, is that a compliment? A testament to the film’s power? Crap, I dunno.
Like the ingredients of a hot dog, the less you know about Animosity the more you’ll enjoy it. The basic story follows love birds Carrie (Tracy Willet) and Mike (Marcin Paluch), who just moved into a secluded home in the forest (Pennsylvania, judging from a license plate I spotted). For Carrie, it’s the perfect place to start building a family. Mike works in a lab during the day while she stays at home scoring a horror film. Their rural serenity is shattered by their neighbor, Tom (Stephen Goldbach), one mean looking S.O.B. who antagonizes Carrie with menacing hostility.
After a particularly alarming incident where Tom refuses to leave their property, a series of events occurs that begin to break Carrie down. While Mike assures her that she needs to get more sleep, Carrie is coming undone, believing that she’s being manipulated by something out of her grasp, perhaps even supernatural. As she begins to connect the dots, an unimaginable evil is revealed.
Steere definitely knows his way around a camera. Everything is shot nice and tight, elevating the paranoia that’s choking Carrie. He makes some smart, subtle choices in what to reveal to the audience and what to hold back on. Tracy Willet delivers a helluva performance as Carrie. It’s a complex role that covers the gauntlet of emotions, and she does a terrific job.
It’s in the story itself where I encountered some problems. The core is interesting enough, but it’s filled out with some elements that dragged the story down for me. Again, I don’t want to reveal any of the film’s secrets, I’ll just say I wish it was stripped down to its bare bones a bit more, making for a leaner, meaner film. Also weakening the emotional impact for me was one of the central character’s motivations. Again, without spoiling anything, one character’s motive for taking part in something just didn’t make any sense to me. And in the end he shifts gears, which made his previous actions all the more frustrating.
At the risk of giving anything away, I’ll stop there. I really hope Animosity gets an official release soon, not just because I want to watch it again, but also so people can debate my review. I want to like this movie. The main narrative is great, but was a little too bloated for me. After watching it a second time, chances are I’ll have a different opinion, which is great. I actually love when that happens. If that happens, I’ll gladly write a revised review. But for now, all I know is that I left the theater feeling worn out and unsatisfied.