When it comes to low/no budget horror films, it’s always easier to go for horror-comedy, winking to the audience to make it clear that you’re in on the joke. That the seams on the monster suit are noticeable; that the performers are amateurs and maybe not entirely up to snuff; that it’s a little easier to take the piss than to go for the real scares. And sometimes the film makers just hope that the audience will opt to enjoy their film for what it is. Animosity is not one of those films. Taking inspiration from Andrei Tarkovsky‘s Solaris, as well as Alien and the work of Ti West, writer/director Brendan Steere adapts the creepier parts of those works into a pure horror setting, and damn if it doesn’t work like gangbusters. After a suitably odd and disturbing opening where a mother (Thea McCartan) murders her daughter (Michelle Jones), we get to our main story, as the mother sells her house to Mike and Carrie Bonner (Marcin Paluch and Tracy Willet) who are ready to settle down and start a family — or at least Carrie is, anyway. Add a frightening German neighbor Tom (Stephan Goldbach), Mike’s doctor boss Carl Hampton (Tom Martin) and his girlfriend/assistant Nicole (Alyssa Kempinski), and it doesn’t take very long for things to start feeling weird. And while we very nearly slide into the torture-porn-school of low-budget horror, Animosity never feels like its cheapening its story with violence and gore in order to shock the viewer. Every bit of grotesquery plays a part in telling the story, while also illuminating and developing the characters. Tracy Willet carries this story, though. And while all of the actors are good, she is excellent. There are moments in this film that allow her to move from playing a loving wife to a woman who feels like she’s maybe losing her mind, to becoming more like a primal force, barely able to restrain her anger and hostility. In particular, there’s a scene late in the film where Carrie runs into the woman who sold them the house in the first place, and it is a show-stopper. Willet commits totally to the moment and Steere walks away with one of the most disturbing and entrancing scenes in a low-budget — hell, an any-budget — horror film in years. No question, this is a tight script. And while some may find issue with the relaxed pacing, the acting and the cinematography are excellent. Willet in particular is a joy to watch, as she slowly begins to figure out what’s going on in the woods and what role she plays in the downfall of everyone involved. Jesse Gouldsbury‘s cinematography makes nearly every shot look like it costs way more than it actually did, and the lighting choices, while a little too dark for my tastes in some spots, help elevate the look and reinforce the tone of what’s going on. Of course, when your budget is a pittance (the film makers took about a year to finish the film, due to lack of funding) there are going to be issues here and there. A scene or two veer over from stylishly dark into too dark to tell what’s happening, and the sound could have been better as there a number of times where dialogue is lost or incomprehensible. They were going for a dynamic range from silence to shockingly loud, but it needed evening out. There’s nothing more annoying than having to rewind the scene and turn up the volume to figure out what someone’s saying and then having a character shout and force a desperate scramble for the remote to turn the sound back down to normal. But that’s a minor quibble overall. What Steere, Gouldsberry, and editor Steve Burgess have put together here, with the invaluable help of Willet, is one of the best independent horror films of the past few years. If these guys can keep working together and helping each other get better and better, this could be the start of very bright careers. The DVD release of Animosity includes not one, but two audio commentaries, both of which are worth a listen. The first is with Steere, Gouldsberry, and Burgess and if you want to make movies, you should definitely listen. They give listeners insight into the hazards of making an indie horror film (they ran out of money at least once and ended up stretching a three week-or-so shoot over a year — filming in every season), to providing camera and lighting recommendations, and even offering some tips — the towel-dolly, for one, is going into my notes and hopefully will come in handy someday. Commentary 2 is Steere again, but this time with Tracy Willet along for the ride and just hearing her talk about her process and what she brought to the character makes it clear that, as mentioned in the other commentary, you have to invest in the actors. With real actors involved rather than amateurs, you get a level of commitment that helps to overcome other possible shortcomings. When your cast is strong, they can elevate the material — and for first time feature film makers, it was a valuable lesson. This commentary also gives you some insight into the writing process and Steere talks us through a number of earlier drafts, noting shifts in characters and overall focus. Also included on the disc is a short Behind-the-Scenes featurette that makes it look like despite the serious horror going on, it was pretty light when the cameras weren’t rolling. There’s also a short film included called Demon’s Bite. Well, it’s not a short film, really. In Animosity, Carrie is a film composer, working on a film — you guessed it — called Demon’s Bite; a Victorian zombie movie of which we only see one scene while she’s working. This is that scene, uncut. It’s clever and Steere appears, sporting the worst mustache you may ever see on film. Animosity will be released on DVD September 9, 2014. Advance Review: Animosity (2014)4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Top Ten Favorite 2014 Horror Movies - Psycho Drive-In January 28, 2015 […] Animosity is the first feature film written and directed by Brendan Steere, and features a virtuoso performance by Tracy Willet in the lead role of Carrie Bonner. The film was made on practically no-budget, faced any number of financial problems before reaching completion, and ended up being shot a few days at a time in every season, causing issues with continuity. […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.