Animal Room

February 10, 2015 at 11:33 pm (8 Heads, Animal Room) (, , , , , )

Animal Room – 1995 – United States

To discipline unruly teenagers, a high school principal assigns them to a special classroom. Here they watch a strange hypnotic self-help film and antagonize each other. For using hallucinogens, a nerdy misfit must attend the class where he is tortured by sadistic bullies. The film alternates between scenes of misery and savagery as every character suffers through their oppressively bad lives and then takes their pain out on others.

One boy has his head shoved in a feces-filled toilet. Another boy is sexually abused by a priest. Three boys are killed in various ways. And every boy is brutally beaten at some point. It is possible to sympathize with these disturbed teens, but none are beyond reproach. Even the nerdy misfit, who is mostly a victim, commits suicide by threatening a security guard with a gun until the guard shoots him. But the weirdest and most depraved scene is where a girl beats up her helpless old paraplegic father.

Animal Room seems depraved just for the sake of it, and its premise is pretty unbelievable. The parents of the teenagers are curiously absent, aside from one who is an alcoholic. Likewise, the police never get involved, except in a single scene where a rookie cop impulsively shoots a kid. Animal Room is evocative anyway. The teenage actors are convincing, especially Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser of Doogie Howser M.D.) and Matthew Lillard (Stu Macher in Scream). However, I was most emotionally affected because I have felt like all of these teens at various points in my youth.

While it depicts brutal violence and torture, Animal Room’s insidious hopelessness is most disturbing. It is so bleak, I felt dazed after watching it. In the middle of the film, my girlfriend woke up screaming from a nightmare in the other room. I can only guess that Animal Room’s heinous vibes somehow invaded her sleep. Although other than a really bad mood, I am not sure what I am supposed to take away from the experience.

Rating: 8/10 Shrunken Heads. The punk rock band The Misfits appear in a silly cameo that somewhat cheapens this film.


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