'My Animal' — a howling good film

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday October 24, 2023
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Amandla Stenberg and Bobbi Salvör Menuez in 'My Animal' (photo: Paramount)
Amandla Stenberg and Bobbi Salvör Menuez in 'My Animal' (photo: Paramount)

Halloween is just around the corner. Fortunately, we have movies such as "My Animal" (Paramount) to put us in the (f)right mood. While there are some vague, yet highly stylized, elements such as the time period (could be any time between the 1990s and present day) and the location (some of the accents scream New England), there's nothing ambiguous about the way it equates queerness with supernatural otherness.

Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) is a lone wolf in more ways than one. Like her father Henry (Stephen McHattie), Heather has lycanthropic tendencies. Her alcoholic mother Patti (Heidi von Palleske) is unaffected, and the same is true of her younger, hockey-obsessed twin brothers Cooper (Charles F. Halpenny) and Hardy (Harrison W. Halpenny).

When the moon is full, Heather must be shackled to her bed, and the padlocks on her bedroom door must be firmly locked. During the day, and before the moon is out, Heather has ambitions of being a goalie. However, Coach Dutch (Dean McDermott), doesn't think she has what it takes to make the team.

While at the rink, in between Zamboni-ing the ice and working the concession stand, Heather meets Jonny (Amandla Stenberg), a figure skater. Jonny is controlled by two men — her queeny father/coach/skating partner (out actor Scott Thompson) and her macho boyfriend Rick (Cory Lipman).

Nevertheless, that doesn't stop Jonny from flirting with Heather. Heather, whom we've seen masturbating while watching female wrestlers on TV, is fully aware of her queerness. The sexual tension between them is palatable. It oozes from their pores, whether they're dropping acid and tripping at a casino, or just hanging out at Heather's house. When they finally do have sex, Jonny becomes aware that there is more to Heather than meets the (glowing) eye.

Before long, Heather is outed as queer (after her underage brothers catch her at the local bar getting familiar with Jonny in front of the jukebox), and her life gets even more difficult. To add insult to injury, Heather blows the tryout for goalie because she's distracted. Making matters worse, Jonny distances herself from Heather. As if all of that wasn't enough, Henry has a heart attack and dies.

The movie reaches its vicious peak during the blood moon when Heather and Rick have a violent confrontation. "My Animal" fits in well with the other recent horror flicks that borrow from the groundwork laid by its predecessors and eventually putting a 21st-century spin on the storytelling. Rating: B


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