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Review: ANIMAL AMONG US (2019)

Animal Among Us came billed as some kind of Sasquatch film. However, the sack-covered figure on the poster and one particular publicity still seemed at odds with that. And the logline “Friday the 13th meets Dog Soldiers” conjured up images of werewolves and masked killers, not Bigfoot. So, just what is going on in the woods around Camp Merrymaker? I’ll try to give you an idea without giving too much away.

Fifteen years ago, Camp Merrymaker was closed after two girls were brutally killed, seemingly torn apart by some kind of animal. Now, Poppy (Christine Donlon) and Anita Bishop (Larisa Oleynik) are ready to re-open their parent’s camp. They’ve even invited Roland Baumgarner (Christian Oliver, Sense 8) who made his name with a novel about the killings to cut the ribbon.

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However, something is already busy cutting folk to ribbons at the camp. Potential victims include some Bigfoot investigators. Survivors of an attack by some kind of creature and the camp handyman Burl Wolf (Don Frye). As the body count grows, the survivors must band together against the unknown creature. Or is it something more familiar?

Animal Among Us starts off conventionally enough with an attack on some campers. Then a few glimpses of something hairy in the trees, a nasty-looking clawed hand, etc. It becomes obvious that something is out there, no matter how much the sisters try to shrug it off.

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There’s a major distraction from all of this in a subplot concerning Roland’s inability to keep it in his pants. His loving wife is pregnant with their second child, and he’s banging one of his students. And soon enough, one of his hosts as well. Unlike Girl On The Third Floor, where it’s integral to the plot, here it’s just padding and gives the proceedings a bit of a soap opera feel.

Director John Woodruff and writer Jonathan Murphy keep things going quite efficiently until right around the hour mark. Then they toss a series of curves our way, and suddenly we’re not sure what the creature is. Or even if there is one. This feels a bit rushed and probably would have worked better if they had started around the halfway mark. There’s a fine line between keeping the audience off guard and confusing them. The last act of Animal Among Us pushes that line pretty hard.

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At one point I was sure I knew what was going on, but then things changed up again. The twists do make sense once you sort it all out. They didn’t ruin Animal Among Us for me, but I wasn’t thrilled by them either. Your mileage may vary.

Despite that, and the casting of UFC’s first champion, Don Frye, in a role that doesn’t let him trade punches with a Sasquatch, Animal Among Us is a highly watchable movie. It does hold your attention and there are quite a few jumps. And regardless of what you think of the ending, it’s still better than Frozen Sasquatch.

Animal Among Us will be available on VOD and DVD on November 19th from Uncork’d Entertainment. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details.

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