Wednesday, October 19, 2016

30 Days of Nightmares #19: WHEN ANIMALS DREAM (2014)

The Story: A young woman in a small fishing village in Denmark finds out she has inherited the curse of the werewolf.

Expectations: Arthouse werewolf movie?

Reaction: Years ago, I read a book by film critic Barbara Creed called The Monstrous Feminine, which argued that the prototype for all horror movie monsters is the reproductive female body.   It presented the modern horror film as a detailed study of male fears about female sexuality and the power that comes with it.  

In more recent years, I’ve seen several films that bring this subtext right to the surface.  GINGER SNAPS, JENNIFER’S BODY and TEETH all come to mind.  The difference between those films and this one is telling.  In earlier films, the female protagonist must cope with her pubescent “change” on her own, or with the help of only one female friend / sibling.  In WHEN ANIMALS DREAM, the entire community seems to know about Marie’s change, and they are both intrigued and threatened.  It’s the old attraction / repulsion conflict so familiar to horror fans. 

The main underlying theme of the film, about a pervasive cultural desire to tame women, is nothing new—but WHEN ANIMALS DREAM hits all the right notes, and is in some ways a more sophisticated and hopeful treatment of “the monstrous feminine.”  This is not a high-energy movie, but it's refreshingly high-minded. 

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: What happens to Marie’s mother reveals the subterranean horror in the community—and the dangers of living in a culture of fear.

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