Synopsis: Heather, an outcast teenage goalie, falls for newcomer Jonny, an alluring but tormented figure skater. As their relationship deepens, Heather’s growing desires clash with her darkest secret, forcing her to control the animal within.
Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Stephen Mchattie, Heidi Von Palleske, Cory Lipman, Joe Apollonio
Director: Jacqueline Castel
Running Length: 100 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: I do my best not to play favorites in writing these reviews, but any movie that opens with a reference to Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre earns instant mad respect in my notebook. Running from 1982-1987 and comprised of 27 star-filled episodes, these are somewhat forgotten now due to lack of availability on streaming services but fondly remembered by those (like me) who grew up with them. I’m not sure if My Animal’s director, Jacqueline Castel, or writer Jae Matthews chose to reference the Season 3 episode Beauty and the Beast (starring Susan Sarandon and Klaus Kinski). Still, it was an inspired way to introduce this modern story with dark parallels to that bedtime tale.
An ordinary Canadian town is the setting for this high school coming-of-age story that doubles as a moody werewolf horror flick. Teenage Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) works at the local ice rink where her younger twin brothers play hockey. She knows she would make a solid goalie if only the team’s captain would get over his gender bias, but so far, her only time on the ice is running the Zamboni after the players have left. Ignored by her classmates, she also harbors a dark secret that only her family truly understands. Each full moon, she undergoes a painful transformation she can’t control, bringing a hunger and a habit she desperately rejects.
It’s a curse shared by the men in her family, including her father (Stephen McHattie, Nightmare Alley), but resented by her mother (Heidi Von Palleske, Red), who has been injured too often by her out-of-control loved ones. Into this dangerous mix comes Jonny (Amandla Stenberg, Bodies Bodies Bodies), a new student at Heather’s school who figure skates with her father. When the girls see each other, there is an instant connection, and Heather experiences a feeling, a knowledge she hasn’t known yet. But a relationship with Jonny has consequences for all…and there’s a full moon rising soon.
While My Animal has a strong opening act and admirable performances all around (Menuez, in particular, is fantastic), it starts to lose steam before it reaches its halfway point. A familiarity enters the mix, and we begin to see where Matthews’s script is taking us instead of finding ways that surprise us. The good news is that Castel has an eye for visuals, and combined with a hypnotizing score by Augustus Miller, the overall ambiance created by My Animal is alluring, if unmemorable.