Netflix latest horror film is a Spanish movie called Animas, described by IMDb simply as “This time, horror comes from the other side”: they’re really underselling it!
The movie stars two relatively unknown actors (Clare Durant and Ivan Pellicer) who portray, respectively, Alex and Abraham, two teenagers who come from dysfunctional families and have been best friends since they were little. At one point, very early on in the movie, Alex – who has the habit of self-harming and suicidal tendencies – begins to experience certain entities in her life, which presence becomes more and more dangerous.
What appears to be a straightforward story with paranormal/supernatural elements is, in actuality, much more than that or, rather, very different from how the viewer would expect it to unfold.
Animas is an extremely offbeat horror drama, where everything seems off from the get-go: Abraham – your typical rebellious teenager who listens to shitty music and has an obsession with horror films – is surrounded by an environment that seems painfully realistic. It almost hurts to see how genuine his dysfunctional household is, how badly he’s treated by his dad, how alone he is in all of that.
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On the other hand, every time Alex is on screen (she takes the majority of the screen time), her presence is underlined by unnatural green and red bright lights, surreal locations and settings, dreamlike score and tracks.
In fact, first and foremost Animas (which means souls in Spanish) showcases great visual storytelling from writers and directors Laura Alvea and Jose Ortuno: there’s little to no exposition in this film, the dialogues are used to develop characters, not to move the plot along. Everything the audience learns in regards to the story is perfectly told by the visuals in Animas, which excel in the old rule that claims: “show, don’t tell”.
As a horror movie, I don’t have any trouble recommending Animas to anyone: this film manages to be unsettling due to its atmosphere and relentless display of mental illnesses, but also doesn’t shy away from horror tropes such as jump-scares and scary faces in the dark. Although I personally found the jump-scares quite distracting – as they took me out of the movie, which was otherwise very intense and had me constantly on the edge of my seat – I can easily see how many other viewers will find them spooky and effective.
As a drama, Animas also achieves what the filmmakers were set out to do. The film manages to get you involved with Abraham and Alex, due to the great performances these newcomers are able to pull off, with the scene that takes place on a rooftop being the cherry on top. More than the, supposedly, supernatural element, I found the character’s family situation and their way to deal with it to be highly emotional, scary and a tad bit disturbing.
Yet, the story builds up to a twist that I can imagine being very divisive: I personally liked how the reveal, so to speak, comes half an hour before Animas is over, because it shows how this film is not all about the twist. That said, I feel like – in retrospect – this reveal raises more questions than it answers: in other words, if like me you think about the movies you watch and try to read into them a bit, you might find that certain things didn’t add up or didn’t fully make sense in the end.
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This is, without a doubt, my biggest complaint with Animas. Besides that, some editing choices feel inconsistent and odd, and the very last shot of the movie – which is displayed after the end credits start rolling – seems very misplaced and unnecessary. Like, I kept asking myself what the point of that was without being able to come up with a satisfying answer.
In conclusion, Animas is a horror drama that will most likely please the majority of viewers: it’s offbeat and visually striking enough to be appreciated by cinema enthusiasts, it’s emotional enough to be welcomed by people who want more than just a thrill-ride from their horror flicks, it’s scary and unsettling enough not to disappoint mainstream audiences. Even if you find the movie underwhelming, try to catch all the references to classic horror films (there’s one in every scene) and you’ll have a great, fun time! It’s on Netflix, so you really have no excuse for not watching is as soon as you can.
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