One of the most innovative haunted house movies since The Shining, Animosity, the stunning debut feature of Brendan Steere, is finally getting released eight years after its initial festival run. Executive produced by Roy Frumkes (Street Trash, Document of the Dead), the film opens with Lauren (Thea McCartan) walking out of a house in the woods with a circular saw and a very long extension cord. She is closing in on a young girl, Erin (Michelle Jones), who is crawling wounded through the dead leaves on the ground. Lauren has to put down the saw for a moment to drag the screaming girl back close enough to get within reach of the extension cord. Right before the young girl gets cut up into little pieces, she screams, “I don’t know what I did, Mom! Mommy! Please!”
Next, we see Lauren packing up the pieces of her daughter into a box while preparing the house for sale. She hands over the keys to the new owners, Carrie Bonner (Tracy Willet) and her husband Mike (Marcin Paluch). They have moved to the woods so Mike can work on a research project with Dr. Carl Hampton (Tom Martin). Their first morning in the house gets interrupted by a frantic man, Tom (Stephen Goldbach), banging on the door. Tom glares at Carrie and demands Mike talk to him privately in the driveway. Mike goes away and, when he comes back, tells Carrie that Tom is their neighbor and was looking for his lost dog.
Later, while composing synth music for a horror movie, after cutting the dickens out of her foot, Carrie hears a gunshot. She runs outside to find Tom running around with a gun and claw marks on his neck. When Carrie tells Mike about it over dinner, Mike downplays Tom’s behavior, saying he is just a strange kind of guy. That night she awakens to noises in the kitchen. When she gets there, it is empty, but things have been moved around. Then someone or something grabs Carrie in the dark. Everything twists up like mad from here on out, with Carrie soon finding out the horrifying secret behind the house.
“…someone or something grabs Carrie in the dark.”
Writer/director Brendan Steere triumphs on both setting up the atmosphere of a traditional haunted house picture and then reworking the genre conventions in an utterly ghastly manner. He employs a logical, almost science fiction deconstruction of the boundaries of the haunted house film, akin to the approach Cabin in the Woods took to the slasher movie genre requirements. As a result, the directions Animosity goes are fresh and exciting and serve as an expressionistic examination of the darker impulses behind many family relationships.
Willet rockets to the moon in her portrayal as Carrie, as she possesses an incredible range. A range she gets to show off here. The sound design is terrifying, balancing blood-curdling screams with long stretches of pin-dropping silence. The special effects are effective and don’t betray the insanely low budget, which was reported to only be $15,000. That something so amazing and terrifying could be made for such a minuscule amount is astounding and shows just what the underground can still pull off.
It is mind-boggling that such an instant horror classic would be locked away for so many years before finally being unleashed on the world. Animosity should be sought out by both horror fans and supporters of independent cinema, as it radiates with intelligent, bloody majesty.
"…amazing and terrifying...an instant horror classic..."