My Animal Review | This Werewolf Lacks Bite

by Andrew Parker

My Animal is an ambitious, artful, but not always original or thrilling teen horror that follows in the footsteps of fellow Canadian genre hit Ginger Snaps in trying to reformat werewolf mythology through a queer, feminist lens. It has great performances and an eerily sparse, snow covered setting that’s often more frightening than any transformations and bloodletting could ever hope to be, but My Animal is often held back by attempts to make the material seem headier and more surreal than it actually is on the page.

Bobbi Salvör Menuez gives a commanding and convincing lead performance as Heather, an aspiring teenage goalie in a rural Northern town. Her hockey prodigy twin brothers (Charles F. and Harrison W Halpenny) are afforded plenty of on ice opportunities, but despite the pleading and advocacy of her father (Stephen McHattie), Heather is still forbidden for trying out for the men’s squad. But the bigger problem Heather faces is the fact that she’s a lycanthrope who has to be chained up in her room for a few days every month when the moon becomes full. It puts a serious crimp into her blossoming crush on Jonny (Amandla Stenberg), a new girl in town training down at the local rink to become a world class figure skater.

The idea of transforming into a relentless beast as a metaphor for coming of age and menstruation has been done before and better, which is why it’s a shame that the script from Jae Matthews (one half of the musical duo Boy Harsher, with bandmate Augustus Muller providing the score here) takes things so seriously and morosely. A little dash of humour could’ve helped to elevate My Animal (which had its world premiere at Sundance back at the start of the year), but instead the film wallows in standard tropes of misunderstood youth and small town isolation. It’s a gruff, stand-offish film that’s hard to get into beyond the overall likability of Heather as a character and the strength of Menuez and Stenberg’s performances.

First time feature director Jacqueline Castel displays both good and questionable visual instincts. Whenever the action is set in the local hockey rink or in one of the town’s sparsely populated roads, parking lots, or casinos, My Animal is visually haunting and arresting, with the film’s closing moments making a particularly strong impression. Whenever the action shifts to depictions of Heather’s home life or romantic leanings, everything appears rather on the nose, unsubtle, and perfunctory, with way more red filtered lighting than is advisable. 

There are plenty of vibes and atmosphere to be found in My Animal by the sum of its parts is rather slight; too serious to be fun, and too cliched and predictable to be taken seriously. If the film had either picked a lane between a teen love story filled with ennui or a straightforward horror movie about a werewolf trying to control their impulses, My Animal might’ve been onto something.

My Animal is now available on VOD in Canada. It can be viewed on Paramount+ in the United States and other foreign territories.

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