Less a re-imagining of Donnie Darko’s angsty speculative fiction vibe than a sexually dangerous, imaginative blenderization of it (with Van Sant’s Elephant and a benign version of Child’s Play also in the mix), Animals rounds a host of sharp corners on its completely unpredictable journey into freaky, dark fantasy. In the familiar-seeming, yet exotic locale of Spain’s Catalonia region, awkward teen Pol attends an international school, and does what any emotionally-stunted youth would do: he hangs out with his imaginary best friend, a stuffed teddy bear with an ominous voice like a MacBook’s speech function from hell. Oh, and he jams on guitar in his basement while the bear kicks ass on drums. As creepy real-world things like a local girl’s death, a seductive new exchange student and outbursts of school violence all intrude on Pol’s carefully calibrated world, things start to get really unhinged. Switching back and forth between English and Catalan — and vacillating wildly between the “dream” reality, the “real” reality and a real-ish inbetween — Animals is a crystalline distillation of the dread naturally arising from our Millennial generation’s impending adulthood.
Dir. Marçal Forés, 2012, digital presentation, 94 min.

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