Low budget horror flick Animal surprises with decent acting, feasible story and the look of high production value.

Animal is about a group of friends who decide to hang out and take a hike. The hike goes longer than planned and they end up in the forest at night with a ravenous beast viciously trying to kill them as they fight to survive.

The group dynamic of friends is well formed, funny, realistic and engaging. Casting is spot on for well acted roles, shout out to Paul Iacono, while having actors anonymous enough to add to the unknowing atmosphere for who will live through the night. The characters themselves adhere to the horror-movie-type while being just out of the mold to still feel fresh. And the dialogue between them is wittily amusing in that Generation Z kind of way.

The subtype of “creature film” gets a bad reputation within the horror genre. A creature film can be forgiving because it allows some flexibility. Typically this is exploited and too many liberties are taken to make the creature believable. Besides, normally the animal-thing looks laughably horrid.

Animal is not one of those films. Though the beast could have looked better, and was very clearly a human in a suit, it was consciously shrouded in the darkness and shadows, masked to keep the allure and fear alive.

The scares and jumps received from watching Animal are unexpectedly genuine and the film’s duration is perfectly timed to keep watchers engaged. Crutch-like devices like loud noises and cliche shock tactics are seldom used and there are a few moments that are a true surprise. Animal is a great film to watch for the horror fan who has seen it all and has to resort to browsing obscure, low budget or B-movie flicks.

Animal is not without fault. Filmmakers distractedly feel obligated to include personal details and conflict amongst the characters unnecessarily and are a cheap addition. Some deaths are a throwaway rather than capitalizing on the potential for another scene with blood and gore.

Though Animal loses lots of points for originality, in all other regards it is a success. Not revelatory by any means, it manages to adhere to the creature-horror formula while being engaging and entertaining.