Thoughts About the “Live Animals” Movie

18 07 2012

Allllrighty then. I recently found out that Netflix Instant as served up via my Blu-Ray Player has been holding out on me. There seems to be a hard limit of 250 titles per category, but some categories like “horror” have been holding fast at 81 titles, and dropping. I checked the web site and discovered all sorts of madness and mayhem to add to my queue.

(Yes, I watch other stuff too, but sometimes I’m in the mood for some good old fashioned gore. I blame the 1970s.)

In my search, I discovered a title called Live Animals. Here’s the teaser:

A group of college kids must decide what price they will pay to gain their freedom after being kidnapped by a ruthless White Slave trader.

Reviews were mixed (mostly “hated it”) at Netflix, but a few lone wolves said “no, no, check it out, it’s actually well done for a low-budget movie.”

Yeah, about that. Spoilers follow:

Here’s the deal: I don’t mind sleaze, I don’t mind low-brow entertainment, but if that’s where you’re taking it, say so. If you’re trying to be all super-serious and dramatic, that’s the standard I’m going to use to judge your movie.

As something of a caveat, even though they’re entirely different kinds of movies, I liked Saw. Yes, it was low-budget, no it wasn’t the best acting ever, but to me, it captured the essence of storytelling. The Saw crowd spun a yarn, and held my interest to the end. Whether the budget was $5 million or $500, if you can do that, I’m willing to look kindly upon your works.

So having said that, Live Animals did manage to hold my interest to the end.

However, what I really want to do with any movie (depending on quality) is immerse myself in the story. Give me the hook, give me the motive(s), give me the conflict(s), and I should be on board for at least 90 minutes.

It’s hard to really “buy in” to the story, even with no-name actors, when there are glaring errors.

Spuh-hoilers, in case you’re sensitive to that stuff and need extra reminders.

  • Hey kids, if you ever want to keep someone captive against their will, use a snap hook. That’ll hold ’em. Apparently the grocery store ran out of those plastic handcuffs they always sell in the crappy “toy” section. Yes, I get that the victims were being menaced by the bad guys in other ways (such as the threat of being shot) but come ON, one guy was clipped to a chain with a snap hook (unattended, overnight) and he’s trying to figure out if he can unscrew the bolts holding the hitching ring to the wall. Genius.
  • There was a Dilbert strip long ago where the gist was that for every person attending a meeting, subtract 5 from a possible 100 “intelligence points”. The more attendees, the dumber the meeting outcome. Well, my contribution to the discourse is to say for every victim of a fiendish abduction plot, subtract 5 IQ points from a possible 100. I kept shaking my head saying “way too many layers of complexity” in that two guys, one being in perpetual slow motion, can’t necessarily control uh, let’s see, I think there were 6 captives. That’s a 70 IQ. Sounds about right, especially when people don’t know how snap hooks work.
  • I was very surprised they crossed the Not Cool barrier and killed a child. [Rec] did too, but there was better context, I guess. Sorry to spoil two movies at once but I did what had to be done, don’t judge me. Besides, in [Rec] it’s more obvious that it’s going to happen and why, and in some ways is more forgivable. In this movie, it was less telegraphed and considering the nature of their business, I was surprised the kid didn’t get tossed in the “new arrivals” bin. I’m clearly not “hep” to what the Young People are doing these days, what with their white slavery and rock music.
  • If it’s wrong to be pulling for the bad guy in this case (Wayne, the head honcho), I don’t wanna be right. Not to this level of extreme, obviously, but I’ve known guys like him. The actor playing the role did a fantastic job of selling his motivation: Get ’em in, get ’em sold, get the next batch. I am NOT condoning human trafficking. I am saying on an empathethic level, I bought in that his character is simply running a business and only cares about the money. I think the southern-fried aspects to his character did well to make the sale.
  • On the flip side, I wanted to empathize with the victims, but various problems arose (snap hooks aside) that prevented full buy-in to their plight. On the up side: Bravo for the make-up department for giving one of the captives scungy teeth (yes that’s a word) who had been there a while. See, these are the details that help suspend or sharply drop the window of disbelief. (Snap hooks.) As someone remarked on IMDb, for all of the big talk about “breaking” people not a lot happens in that department. I don’t know if there was a limited “beat people into submission” budget or what, or if the filmmakers thought that being locked up in a barn was psychological torture enough to establish and sustain the mind-set of the captives. It wasn’t.
  • One thing that would have worked tremendously well to make this a more gripping movie would have been to make the slave traders speak some other language. I’m not trying to get all racist up in here, but come ON, if we’re going the psychological route doesn’t the sense of not knowing what is going on and why help? The captive that had been there longer could have been the English-speaking exposition device, with bonus points for being off her rocker after untold weeks/months/years of [whatever it is they did to her]. Meanwhile the captors bark orders in [Not English] and there’s a lot of cowering and getting smacked upside the head. See? You’d watch that. /writes screenplay in like, 10 minutes
  • Okay, the inevitable moment when the center does not hold and all hell breaks loose. You know it’s coming (snap hooks, and even then DUH they didn’t factor in to the escape plan). One of the captives gets all medieval with a circular saw, and it reminded me of a Star Wars fan film I once saw. I get the impression that someone associated with the movie had always wanted to do a gratuitous splatter-gore scene and NOW IS THE TIME. The SW fan flick had gratuitous light sabers, so this movie’s budget had to have been 80% THAT SCENE. I suppose we’re meant to see things from the captive’s point of view, in that he’s getting out, dammit, and here’s how, but meh, it was just “more”. Maybe I’d do the same thing in that situation. or I wouldn’t, because I know how snap hooks work. To be fair, add 6 zeroes to this movie’s budget and someone’s getting thrown off of a high-rise.
  • Another nitpick: Naked chick (yes!). In handcuffs (I’m listening!). Gets thrown clothes to wear (boo). And magically puts her shirt on, handcuffs be damned. I can’t even blame the snap hook for this one. Also, she has difficulty pulling her pants up. Details, people!
  • And one last nitpick: Guy is growing thick stubble. Yes! This is a good detail to think to add. (Also I’ll quickly mention that one captive mentions that her underwear is dirty, which makes sense.) Then he falls asleep. And when he wakes up… no (or less) stubble. Ummm, no.

Anyway, on the Netflix star scale, I gave this one a 3/5 because I’m all about the little guy. This movie smacked of “student film” to me, and because the filmmakers were trying to spin a yarn with varying degrees of success, and Netflix only allows whole stars, I’ll nudge it up to 3 generously.

(As it turns out, it’s not a student film, but definitely a small production company.)




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