Nutshell: A horror think piece. Slow to build, but the endgame as to exactly what Marie is is never in doubt, allowing viewers to really sink their teeth into (yeah, I said it) the twists and turns of the tale. Sometimes too dark, as far as lighting, but just enough darkness in the storyline.
The Deal: Marie lives in a small fishing village in Denmark. She’s a quiet girl whose mom is in a wheelchair and whose dad is devoted to both mother and daughter. But Marie is starting to get strange rashes that the local doc can’t seem to figure out…or at least that’s what he’s telling Marie.
The Good: Subtitles! C’mon now. They make you focus on the film, and this is one film you’ll want to focus on. When Animals Dream (aka Når dyrene drømmer) may not keep what’s going on close to it’s chest — heck, peep the poster — but the beauty of this film is how they get from the story’s beginning to end. Marie’s life, from day-to-day at her job to the sweet chemistry she has with boyfriend Daniel, rings true. And so does the sometimes cruel hazing she receives at the hands of some workplace bullies.
Director Jonas Alexander Arnby crafts a compelling, eerie tale folded into a coming-of-age/slice-of-life drama. Not only did I want to know more about Marie, I wanted to know more about her village, her way of life. And, of course, her family. Makeup and special FX are as low-key as the story, and that works well here. In fact, I really dig this interpretation of the werewolf myth, and would love to see more about this particular mythology. I wouldn’t say no to a sequel, or prequel.
The Bad: Things get too hard to make out in many of the day-for-night shots, leaving me to squint at the screen and try to piece out what’s going on. Yes, the film takes its time with the story, but that doesn’t mean I don’t mind missing out on what’s happening onscreen. Speaking of onscreen, I’d have also liked to have spent a bit more time with Marie as she struggled with who she is. This story drops the bomb on Marie, and she basically rolls with it. Perhaps she had an idea all along? Dunno. But either way, I’d have liked to have seen more of how this surprising change affected her, instead of watching her simply accept it and carry on.
The Everything Else: Though you may read “werewolf coming-of-age tale” and think Ginger Snaps, you’d be better off thinking of When Animals Dream as a descendant of Let the Right One In. More moody than in-your-face, less focused on GRRRL power (though there are definitely moments where sistas are doin’ it for themselves…) but with a satisfying layer of tension and dread running throughout.
Here’s the breakdown:
Would I watch it again?: Probably, to see if I missed anything now that I know exactly what’s coming down the pike, and perhaps during a Halloween movie-fest. And I’d definitely catch it if it ever hit a horror film fest. Would love to see this on the big screen…because it’s good, and because those overly dark scenes may end up being better seen in the theater.
Should you see it?: If you aren’t one of those “ew yuk reading” folks when it comes to foreign films? Definitely give this a spin. When Animals Dream is sure to takes its place alongside other foreign horror classics.
Streaming average rating: 3 Stars
My rating: 4 Stars