Before I jump into my review for writer/director Chris Wojcik’s low-budget gem “Rise of the Animals”, I would like to take a moment to address the DVD artwork. Although I’ve been told by certain individuals that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, in some cases, that’s all you’ve got. For instance, when you see a picture of a squirrel eating an eyeball on the cover of a DVD, you should get a squirrel eating an eyeball. It’s really that simple. Maybe I blinked and missed it. Maybe the disc I rented decided to skip over the scene in question. I wouldn’t be surprised. However, I don’t think this is the case. What kind of world do we live in when a guy can’t see a squirrel eating an eyeball in a low-budget motion picture?
In case you were wondering, “Rise of the Animals” isn’t the next “Birdemic”. Although the special effects are downright laughable — you either get a sock puppet or a horribly rendered CGI monstrosity — Wojcik’s horror/comedy actually has a bit more to offer than just cheap, unintentional laughs. To my surprise, I found myself developing an emotional attachment to the film’s heroes, which, of course, I had not anticipated. This is a direct result of Wojcik’s engaging script and his cast’s oddly affecting performances. Sure, it’s not the most attractive whore in the proverbial brothel, but it’s more than willing to entertain your sorry ass if you’re willing to open your mind to the experience. Wow, that was a stretch. Sorry about that.
Here’s the setup: Geeky friends Wolf (Greg Hopple) and Jake (Adam Schonberg) deliver a stack of tasty pizzas to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. And guess who happens to be throwing a party at this remote location? A small cluster of attractive girls in the midst of a late-night bender. After faking car trouble, our heroes manage to weasel their way into festivities. After a night of drunken sexual shenanigans, it would see that Wolf has found true love with the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, when he awakens the next morning, she’s nowhere to be found. In fact, all that remains of their tryst is her cell phone. This, of course, is the least of his worries. For reasons that remain unclear, the local wildlife has decided to wage a bloody revolt against mankind, and they’re starting with this unfortunate gathering of shrieking teenagers.
“Rise of the Animals” is, essentially, a road movie, one that just so happens to incorporate lots of angry, flesh-eating woodland creatures into its storyline. During Wolf’s ill-fated quest to return the cellphone to the blonde bombshell who stole his heart, our hero and his cohorts encounter a host of different computer-generated villains, including a car-surfing gorilla that appears out of nowhere. These moments are beyond silly, and, truthfully, I think Wojcik and company understand the absurdity of it all. This is particularly evident in their approach to the special effects. Some of the animals are clearly puppets, and the filmmakers don’t appear too worried about hiding this fact from the audience. The same can be said for the CGI, which was clearly conceived with tongues inserted firmly into cheeks.
Overall, “Rise of the Animals” is a genuinely enjoyable way to burn through 80 minutes of your miserable existence. Wojcik has fashioned an entertainingly bizarre blood-soaked romp that, to be perfectly honest, is a hell of a lot better than it should be. The premise is ridiculous, the effects are ludicrous, and the script doesn’t make a lick of sense. However, this sort of concentrated absurdity goes a very long way with me, especially when you can relate to the characters in spite of the film’s inherent goofiness. Is “Rise of the Animals” for everyone? Of course not. I doubt there are many people who will appreciate the flick as much as I did, but I think it will provide enough laughs for those who are looking for a little low-budget fiber in your cinematic diet. Of course, if you’re hoping for squirrels eating eyeballs, you’re shit out of luck.
Chris Wojcik (director) / Chris Wojcik (screenplay)
CAST: Greg Hoople … Wolf
Stephanie Motta … Rachel
Adam Schonberg … Jake
Nikki Preston … Samantha