Originally shot in 2012 as a thesis project at the School of Visual Arts, professor Roy Frumkes (Street Trash, Document of the Dead) is the film’s executive producer, Animosity had a festival run that included Fantasia and the Boston SciFi Film Festival. But after a small release, it quickly faded into obscurity. Then writer/director Brendan Steere had an unexpected, and unlikely, hit with The VelociPastor.
Never one to pass up a quick cash-in, Wild Eye Releasing has now dusted Animosity off and scheduled it for re-release. Is it one of their better finds, or just another student film that should stay forgotten?
A woman (Thea McCartan, Altered Hours) stalks and kills her daughter with a skill saw before taking a shower and showing the house to prospective buyers Mike (Marcin Paluch, Abandoned in the Dark) and his wife Carrie (Tracy Willet, Second Chance). Of course, they buy the house and move in ASAP, before the landline, there’s no cell reception, and the internet are hooked up.
She’s a composer, currently working from home on the score for a horror film. He works in the city for Dr. Hampton (Tom Martin, The Plot Against America) leaving her alone much of the day. Almost immediately she has a run-in with Tom (Stephan Goldbach, Butter on the Latch) the kind of responsible gun owner who turns his weapon on her when she tells him not to hunt on their land. For some reason, Mike doesn’t want her to go to the police about it.
As if that’s not strange enough she encounters a bloodied young man (Rob O’Rourke) in their house, and the intruder recognizes her. Again her husband downplays it and tells her not to go to the police. The next day she sees him again in the woods, and that meeting comes to a shocking conclusion.
If it isn’t clear from the description, Animosity is nothing like The VelociPastor. This is a twisty, dark film that hinges on a reveal at about the halfway point. What had, up to that point, been a suspenseful piece of psychological horror veers off in another direction in both plot and tone. One that is both bloody and survival/revenge driven. To give away anymore of the plot would be to do both the film and the viewer a grave disservice.
I can say the second half is considerably faster-paced and does feature most of the film’s violence. That includes a very painful-looking scene involving a table, a large knife and several fingers. It’s also not Animosity’s most disturbing scene.
Steere has cited Rosemary’s Baby as an influence on the first part of Animosity, and I can see that. It also reminded me of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death in a couple of places. It’s a solidly built work of suspense anchored by a great performance from Tracy Willet as a woman caught in the middle of the strange happenings. That segues into an equally compelling performance as somebody who has to deal with the fact that nobody, herself included, is who or what they seem. Hopefully, the resurrection of the film will get her performance the notice it deserves.
At a hundred and three minutes Animosity does run a bit long. There are also a few scenes that are a bit too dark making it hard to read important information from notebooks, etc. But they’re minor gripes, especially for a first feature, and a student one at that. I much preferred this to his better-known film and I’d rather see him do something else in this style than the rumoured Velocipastor 2.