True crime, and the interest in it, is not a new phenomenon, and no one knows this better than author Roland Baumgarner (Christian Oliver). His expose on the Merrymaker Campgrounds murders made his name, and shrouded that of the camp in mystery and intrigue. Fifteen years after the killings, which were chalked up to an animal attack, the Bishop family looks to breathe new life into the camp, and invite Roland to the grand re-opening, against the wishes of Roland’s wife Christine (Erin Daniels), and unknown to Roland’s mistress Kara (Jasmine Dustin). Will Roland’s tales about the beast of Merrymaker make him a victim after all? Or is there another breed of monster stalking the camp?
Part creature feature, part murder-mystery, Animal Among Us is a different animal altogether. One of the best things the film does is not showing the face of the titular animal, even during the attack scenes. By maintaining the mystery of the identity of the monster, the thrills stay high, even if the body count starts off low. As great as it may be to see the beast, the veil would be lifted too soon, and by that point, there’s less incentive to care about the beast, now that we would know what it looks like.
While some of the characters come off as one-dimensional, the work that goes into Roland is superb. He’s the focus of much of the film, but he is far from an honest protagonist. He’s sleazy, scummy, and immediately unlikable, and it makes the desire for him to get clawed to death that much stronger. I won’t spoil his fate, but let’s just say that there are fates worse than death.
Beyond this, there is only so much to really like about this film. What violence and gore there is isn’t much to write home about, even if the film is advertised as “Friday the 13th meets Dog Soldiers.” That’s not to say that the underlying story, where the camp counselors are handling the bloody history of their camp, isn’t a compelling one; it’s not as ham-fisted and one-directional as it could be.
In so many words, it may be best to go into this film blind. If you anticipate a gory creature feature, you’re not going to be satisfied. If you’re looking for a murder-mystery, you may be left wanting a little more. The way that the film ties things up and reveals the true nature of the Animal Among Us is satisfying for what it is, but the less you know going in, the better.