Anthony Ray Bench
| July 28, 2020
NEW TO TUBI! The grizzly murder of two teenage girls haunts the family-operated Merrymaker Campground. Fifteen years later, a series of what appears to be animal attacks brings the past and present spiraling towards a bloody confrontation. Directed by John Woodruff and written by Jonathan Murphy, Animal Among Us had me hooked right off the bat. The first sequence promised an interesting monster flick, and I’m an absolute sucker for those, but as the story unfolded, it became very clear that there was something more to it. This creature feature has mystery, intrigue, and compelling and morally ambiguous characters; I watched every frame like a hawk trying to find clues, and as the movie ended and the credits rolled, I was a little disappointed, and I really, really hate to say that.
Christian Oliver plays Roland Baumgarner, a successful author, and teacher living with his pregnant wife and daughter. Roland authored a book based on true events that involved an attack that left two teenage girls brutally murdered, and he is asked to return to the scene of the story in order to drive some publicity towards the camp’s reopening. Meanwhile, Merrymaker’s owners, the Bishop sisters (played by Larisa Oleynik and Christine Donlon), are trying to get to the bottom of a new series of violent occurrences. Are they just animal attacks? Bigfoot? A deranged murderer? Something far more sinister and stranger? I honestly couldn’t wait to find out. Aside from a few extraordinarily weak lines of dialogue and a character or two I just couldn’t connect with, there are not many complaints worth mentioning aside from the disappointing ending. This could have been a fun horror flick I’d recommend to all my likeminded friends, but around the one-hour mark, everything just falls apart.
“Roland authored a book based on true events that involved an attack that left two teenage girls brutally murdered, and he is asked to return to the scene of the story…”
Animal Among Us does boast a very talented cast, though. I’m a big fan of Larisa Oleynik from 10 Things I Hate About You and the extremely underrated 90’s Nickelodeon kids show The Secret World of Alex Mack; she’s absolutely delightful as Anita Bishop. There’s something off about the character, but as the story progresses, her more quirky acting choices are fairly justified. Christine Donlon plays the other Bishop’s sister, Poppy. Her character doesn’t have much to do except look great and be a bit of a temptress, but she plays the part well and adds some surprising depth to something that could be just another played out cliché. Christian Oliver is the main star of the film, and he does decent work here, but some of his line readings are a bit spotty. Nothing too horrible or distracting, but there are just some line readings that didn’t work for me. Legendary UFC fighter Don Frye plays Burl Wolf, a gruff and intimidating mountain of a man. I’ve only seen Frye act before in Godzilla: Final Wars, he’s improved since then, but his strongest suit is still looking burly and intimidating. The only two characters that bothered me was the Bigfoot Blogger dude (played by writer Jonathan Murphy) and Lupita played by Whitney David. Bigfoot Blogger was a little too annoying, and Lupita just didn’t have any real development for her character. She was just there to be terrified, and shell shocked.
Is Animal Among Us good? No, but it’s (mostly) damned entertaining. It looks great, it has interesting characters, and it features a nice blend of humor and scares, but I just can’t get over how lackluster the ending was. If you’re okay with a 90-minute movie featuring a strong build-up but a weak payoff, give it a watch, there’s still a lot of fun that can be had with this enjoyable little horror flick.