Thursday, 10 February 2022

Anonymous Animals (2020) - Horror Film Review

Anonymous Animals
is a French horror film written and directed by Baptiste Rouveure that tackles the topic of animal cruelty as well as the whole meat industry in a unique way (possibly 2018's The Farm did something similar but I haven't seen that personally). Despite being French made, the film can be perfectly understood in any language as there is zero dialogue here.

The movie takes place in a nightmarish world where anthropomorphic animals rule. There isn't really a story here to follow, instead there are a variety of different situations shown. A chained bearded man out in the woods gets captured and taken to a variety of different farm locations, at each one he is chained up and treated like an animal by his captors. Another section features a group of scared humans kept in an electrified pen in a large cattle shed, their captor, a bull headed creature using a stun gun on them.

It became quite clear early on that this is designed to show the horror of how some animals are treated by humans. By reversing the roles a strong horror vibe is created. The various humanoid animals have blank, expressionless faces, the noises they make are relevant to whichever animal they happen to be. The stag out hunting with a shotgun, the bear, the bull, the pack of dogs and more all have their own natural sounds that make them all pretty terrifying. Mostly these animal heads on the actors don't move, they don't blink or for the majority have any type of movement but this adds to the creepy factor. Early on I wondered if these were all humans wearing masks, but as the film played out it became apparent this was a nightmare world of humanoid animals.

I think the lack of plot is where Anonymous Animals fell down for me. Throughout there is fantastic cinematography, the misty rural location, and the dank and dirty farm buildings maintained a vibe of cold indifference, but without any sort of real story it came a little bit exhausting at times. I guess the protagonist would be the bearded man, he appears in around two thirds of the scenes. I wasn't sure how this would end, but what we got was actually quite neat, a subtle blink and you miss it twist that finished the film. It was so sudden that I had to skip back a few seconds to see if what I thought I had seen was real. It was clever and cemented the point the movie was going for. Personally I eat meat, and am aware how nasty some of the process of creating that meat can be. The message is constant but not heavy handed. Other types of cruelty are also shown, such as when two humans are forced to fight each other, with a group of humanoid dog faced men barking around them (the dogs with saliva dripping off their mouths and with masks that are actually able to open and close the mouths). Obviously that was an inversion of illegal dog fighting.

It was aware how the lack of dialogue and plot could maybe drain the viewer, so at around seventy minutes it is all over, ending on as sombre a note as it began. For me this was something really unique, a terrifying alien world of cold barbaric acts that was only let down by not really having any story to speak of. Anonymous Animals is due for release on 4th April by High Fliers Films.


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