Monster transformation isn't exactly a subtle or original metaphor for the hormonal unrest befalling insecure young adults. And bully-induced aggressive explosion traces its cinematic roots as far back as Carrie. But director Jonas Alexander Arnby, making his debut feature with Danish horror/drama Når dyrene drømmer, shows sharp instincts for pacing and composition, so that even when following a familiar path, he never loses your attention.
Much like its Scandinavian sibling Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In), this movie whisks along without major hiccups and is aesthetically speaking an instant stunner. Playing with the contrast between warm, sun-drenched landscape and fluorescently-lit, pathologically white indoor surfaces, it boasts one gorgeously suggestive frame after another. Also contributing to the overall creepiness of the picture are the angular bone structure and singularly bland features of lead actress Sonia Suhl, who makes several key scenes of persecution come alive as her surreal looks complete the almost cartoonish acts of cruelty whilst her fragility makes us actually feel the terror.
Technical aspects are all pro, with the cinematography and make-up departments obviously at the forefront. The original music provided by Mikkel Hess should also be credited though, especially its electronically enhanced portion, which adds an unsettling, nearly cheerful sense of impending doom to the mix.
Albeit slightly derivative, Når dyrene drømmer is a delicious new entry into the subgenre of teenage angst-based supernatural mutation.
Når dyrene drømmer (When Animals Dream) | Directed by Jonas Alexander Arnby (Denmark 2014) with Lars Mikkelsen, Jakob Oftebro, Sonja Richter. Starts August 21