Tag Archives: werewolves

When Animals Dream

When Animals Dream
When Animals Dream

Format: Cinema

Release date: 3 April 2015

Distributor: Altitude Film Distribution

Director: Jonas Alexander Arnby

Writer: Rasmus Birch

Cast: Sonia Suhl, Lars Mikkelsen, Sonja Richter

Original title: Når dyrene drømmer

Denmark 2014

84 mins

A Danish teenage lycanthropic affair, When Animals Dream concerns the pubescent awakening of Marie (Sonia Suhl), a girl growing up in a tiny coastal village, where everybody is in each other’s pocket and the single onshore industry involves the gutting of fish. On top of the usual libidinal stirrings and physical developments Marie has more singular problems to deal with: there’s the growing realisation that her domestic situation is far from normal. Why is the local doctor suddenly scheduling monthly appointments? Exactly what is the condition that has left her mother heavily sedated and wheelchair-bound? Clearly there is something her father (Lars Mikkelsen) isn’t telling her, and it seems to have the locals spooked.

Whilst swimming the same waters as the likes of Ginger Snaps or Teeth, this is a much more Scandinavian affair. It’s a slow burner with sparse dialogue and a distinctive gloomy look, all lowering skies and creamy yellowing light. Performances are subdued and naturalistic, and there’s none of the flip snarkiness that’s become de rigueur with US productions. Instead we have something a bit more generous, humanistic and affecting. The adolescent agony is conveyed effectively, and there’s a very real sense of small town oppression, with a terrific scene where a traditional first day at work humiliation ritual bubbles with understated hostility. And whilst the messy transformative business isn’t exactly box fresh, the film hangs on an interesting question: what do you do with a problem like Marie? Whilst the film is largely seen from her point of view, and Suhl’s delicate, defiant performance ensures that we are on her side, Rasmus Birch’s screenplay does not sideline or downplay the villagers’ understandable concerns. The tale could be a metaphor for every outsider status from homosexuality to mental illness, but this metaphor means that there’s a heavy price to pay when, if you’ll forgive me, things get hairy every month. No wonder her dad looks so tortured, he’s paralysed by love and fear.

Though this is Marie’s film, and is built around her path from awkward confusion to outright rebellion, I can’t help noticing that the last act, like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Spring, centres around a would-be boyfriend’s acceptance that his lover is prone to ripping the occasional throat out. There seems to be something in the air, and whilst it might not mean much (other than Let the Right One In casting a long shadow), in this case it takes Marie’s story away from her and gives it to someone else. In all three films you know which way the finale is going to go, and wonder how the toothier direction might have played. Although it could have benefited from a rise in heat towards the end and it is probably a little too understated for some genre fans, it is nevertheless classy, smart stuff, and a promising debut from director Jonas Alexander Arnby.

Mark Stafford

This review is part of our LFF 2014 coverage.

Watch the trailer:

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!

The Rats are Coming the Werewolves are Here
The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!

Director: Andy Milligan

Writer: Andy Milligan

Cast: Hope Stansbury, Jackie Skarvellis, Noel Collins

USA 1971

91 mins

While he was in England in 1969 turning out a clutch of very cheap Gothic horror movies (and the artier Nightbirds), the Staten Island auteur Andy Milligan threw together something called The Curse of the Full Moon, which set out to do for werewolves what his The Body Beneath did for vampires.

Set in 1899, it features a typically Milliganesque hate-ridden, incestuous, corrupt and doomed family, the Mooneys, who fester in their old dark house as a horrific disease (lycanthropy) runs through their bloodline. Dialogue runs on and on, full of non sequiturs like ‘because of my age and my health, I decided to send you to medical school in Scotland’ delivered with authentic British accents by oddballs the director happened across in Soho.

Milligan, a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, was torn by self-loathing and inscribed his personal concerns in the lowliest throwaway project. Even if you can’t follow the plot or care about the people or raise a shudder at the amateur monster make-up, you can sense the ghastly conviction with which Milligan has his characters tear into each other verbally and physically. The depiction of werewolfery as a syphilis-like taint even resonates with his own later death from AIDS, though that was in the unimaginable future when this was being shot.

I’ve tentatively become a convert to Milligan as more and more of his films have become available, though he remains a hard sell to the uninitiated, and this is an entry in his filmography that even his most devoted fans don’t take a shine to. Jimmy McDonough, whose Milligan biography The Ghastly One is among the best books ever devoted to a marginal filmmaker, describes it as ‘by far the weakest effort from Milligan’s English sojourn’, though he notes the director’s presence in his only appearance in one of his own films as ‘a rather effete gun salesman’. Tame by the director’s standards, the film went unreleased until 1972 and it wins its place in this special issue against the director’s wishes since it was the distributor, William Mishkin, who insisted on a) padding out the under-length film with footage of rats, because Willard had been a big horror hit and put rats on the fright film map; and b) changing the title to The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!. The title is a master-stroke – it seems almost like a mantra, and conjures up a weird menace and desperation that no film could really live up to.

Kim Newman

Watch the trailer: