Movie Review: Live Animals (2008)

live animals4

I'll grant them that they put together a killer fucking poster!!

This one had me undecided as to whether I liked it or not almost the entire running time.   The opening had me rolling around my eyes; the middle kinda had to hooked; and then the ending … the goddamn ending.  What I thought was gonna end up being a pretty decent and fun entry into the torture-porn sub-genre completely falls apart in the final act.  I was really disappointed that writer-director Jeremy Benson took LIVE ANIMALS in the direction he did in the last 20 minutes.

The film opens with meeting Wayne (John Still); a seemingly salt-of-the-earth, hard working middle America kind of guy who has a big white beard that reminds you of a Santa impersonator at the mall.  But soon after meeting Wayne we follow him as he hunts down and captures a group of 20-somethings as they are having a house party.  With the help of Edgar (a very intimidating Patrick Cox) he locks them up in a barn in individual cages hoping to sell them to the highest bidder.  Yup; it turns out that Wayne is just your typical white slave trader selling the 20-somethings into sexual slavery overseas.  This movie really doesn’t offer anything new to the torture-porn sub-genre and I found myself successfully predicting where the story was gonna go.  But through some pretty well-shot scenes and decent gore, I found myself enjoying this one more than I should have.

Wayne (John Still) seems like a nice guy ... at first!!

What makes this one stand out from the typical shitty torture-porn flick is that the focus isn’t on the captured kids.  Director Jeremy Benson instead decides to focus on the captors (Wayne and Edgar).  Wayne is a matter-of-fact kinda guy who’s married (for 10 years we’re told) and doesn’t take any sadistic pleasure in hurting the kids unnecessarily.  After they’re captured Wayne takes one of the kids and ties him up in front of the others.  He explains, rather rationally, that people are easier to deal with than animals because with people you can “break” one and the others will fall into place (with animals you need to break every one of them).  He then proceeds to “break” the guy as an example.  It was a pretty tense and cringe-inducing scene that worked for me.

I hope Europeans like thick slave girls.

The cast of 20-somethings, as a whole, were unfortunately not very good actors.  They of course do the typical whining and crying, but most of them pander to the camera and I was aware I was watching actors the entire time.  The good thing is that Still and Cox both put in solid performances as the captors.  This is a good thing considering the movie was focused more on them than the kids.  And just wait until the slave buyer shows up and “checks out” the merchandise; its a really creepy scene that will make you feel really uncomfortable and dirty (especially how they box up the girl after she is sold).

But more than anything what hurt this film is the slow pace.  There are many scenes where the camera lingers on pretty unimportant things for too long, and we get endless shots of the captured kids with their faces pressed against their cages.  I think 10 minutes of this film could have been shaved off to made a tighter, more engaging film.  There were also way too many convenient plot points that Benson used to further the plot.  It felt as though Benson wrote himself into a corner a few times and simply “created” a way out that didn’t feel natural to what was occurring on screen.

Yup; we get a lot of scenes of people looking through bars!!

And unavoidably we come to the end; the “escape scene” whereby a few of the caged up “product” gets loose.  Aahhh that goddamn ending.  What I thought was gearing up to be an original ending for a torture-porn flick unfortunately becomes a cookie-cutter ending that really pissed me off.  As soon as the three survivors escape it seems they become completely different characters and start doing really stupid and annoying things that make their situation worse.  And just wait until you see the pain threshold of one of the survivors:  he gets stabbed in the stomach, shot in the back with bird shot, gets a really thick drill through his hand, and gets a finger cut off.  This guy’s more tenacious than that fucking Energizer bunny and just keeps on going.  It was really silly.  I can’t imagine why Benson decided to take the ending where he did.  LIVE ANIMALS completely falls apart in the final act … COMPLETELY, and we even get a “twist” at the end that is just retarded.  Blech.

Wait 'til you see this guys pain threshold; impressive!!

So what I thought was going to revitalize the torture-porn sub-genre by injecting some fresh blood into it (by focusing on the captors instead of the kids captured) ends up going down the same road of cliches.  Now I must admit that I found this one more effective than the HOSTEL flicks.  LIVE ANIMALS doesn’t glorify the violence like HOSTEL 1 & 2 does.  If you’re gonna watch this one anyway, do yourself a favor and don’t watch the final 10 minutes.  This one almost got my recommendation but the ending is just too damn annoying.  Skip it.

My Summary:

Director:  Jeremy Benson (and writer)

Plot:  2.5 out of 5 stars

Gore:  6 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem:  0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

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Comments
15 Responses to “Movie Review: Live Animals (2008)”
  1. Keri says:

    Hmmm…I have a feeling I’d share your misgivings here. It irritates me in a way that I have found myself bored of torture in films, as it’s a pretty strong subject to tire of, but that’s how it makes me feel, so it needs to be a really strong plot to pull me out of the come I go into when I see people in cages. ;)

  2. autumnforest says:

    Thanks for taking another hit for us, buddy!

  3. Jeremy Benson says:

    Hey. Writer / Director Jeremy Benson here. Sorry you hated the ending. I would argue the cookie cutter comment, but hey, to each his own. I really do hate that you hated the ending so bad. The producer and myself were trying to do something different and entertaining with the ending, (and a lot people liked it). Oh well, it is what it is now. Thanks for watching it and thanks for the kind comments about the middle.

    JB

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my review Jeremy!! I really enjoyed LIVE ANIMALS, until the ending of course :-), and felt you were really doing something new and original in the genre. That’s why the ending stood out like a sore thumb to me. The characters were all unique and fresh in the beginning and then in the final act they became more typical of the types of characters that flood this genre. To me they just started doing silly things that made their situations worse, but I must say I loved what you did with the “sister character” at the end….. not many directors would have gone that route.

      I did give this one a moderate recommendation, and I am looking forward to your next foray into the horror genre!!

  4. Tazlady79 says:

    I liked the movie up until the end. I feel everything about the ending is good except the killing of the character Nick and all the injuries to him. Instead of killing him it would have been better if he was recaptured and awoke in a box being loaded by the character Amill onto a truck and Wayne and Amill shaking hands. Fade out and see Wayne taking photos of new people and the whole cycle starting again. We all know that real life does not always have a happy ending so I like to see movies that show reality. So at least it did not end with the usual we’re saved lets go to DisneyWorld feel.

    • It sounds like you enjoyed LIVE ANIMALS more than I did Jessica, but there were parts I enjoyed. I was wavering back and forth on whether I liked it or not, but then once the ending came and went I decided that I didn’t like it. The entire movie falls a part in the end. We get a dumb twist that we all saw coming a mile away, the acting gets really bad in the end, and it really makes no sense. The 1st 2 acts were pretty decent, but the final parts of the film just sucked!!

  5. michaeldaly98@yahoo.com says:

    Tryed to watch it on netflix but there copy was a bad one sound didnt match the movie .It just kept repeating itsself. Really wanted to watch this film

  6. kenyon says:

    i agree with a lot of this. see my review i just posted at moviesleftfordead.com , would love to know what you think. i will add you to the schmogroll.

  7. Danee says:

    I did not understand the ending, can anyone clarify? Who was the woman that shot them both dead? And the woman that bought the farm?

    • The ending, Danee? The ending, like the entire film, was crap. The chick that shot them was the wife of the owner of the slave ring. She was in with the others to make sure they didn’t escape.

      What a horrible movie!!

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  • Some of my favorite horror movies:
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)

  • Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)

  • Martyrs (2008)

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