Sympathetic monsters, awful people, and seasonal affective disorder, probably: “When Animals Dream” (2014)


Quick one this time. When Animals Dream is an interesting entry in the “sympathetic monsters” subgenre, which I may have just invented. It bears comparison with Let the Right One In, Spring, and, to a lesser extent, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (links are to my reviews). All four are (so-called) “dark fairy tales,” a term I’m pretty sure I did not invent, and all four feature people who happen to be monsters and the mostly normal humans who fall in love with them.

The story centers on Marie, a young lady living at home with her parents in a fishing village in Denmark. We quickly learn that there is something unusual about Marie and her mother, some apparently congenital medical condition that requires constant medical care (and has resulted in Marie’s mom being confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak or care for herself).

Marie starts a new job at a fish processing facility, where she has to cope with both the unexpected hostility of some of her awful, awful coworkers and the romantic attentions of stubbly Daniel. The emotional stress of the job seems to exacerbate Marie’s condition, and when she starts to suffer mood swings and rapidly-growing body hair, we start to get a clearer idea of what’s going on. (Hint: it’s something werewolfy.)

When Animals Dream is bleak, much as its Northern European forerunner Let the Right One In, both in terms of setting and in terms of mood. It isn’t especially violent and doesn’t attempt to be scary, instead offering a rather quiet study of a human dealing with an inhuman condition. It isn’t fantastic–it suffers from some pacing issues and some bad special effects (I’m thinking here of the flashback sequences)–but it’s smart and engaging enough to make its rather short 84-minute runtime fly by.


Halloween Meltdown ’13: Don’t Starve

As usual, I’m late to the party on this one. While not explicitly about Halloween, Don’t Starve is a fun little Minecraft-esque grindy/harvesty indie title that lets you run around (for a while) in a weird, monochromatic cartoon world. The art is very Tim Burtony, and the music is pleasingly waltzy. You need to harvest resources and build stuff to help you stay alive, AND you need to attend to your character’s ever-increasing hunger. AND you need to worry about going insane, because there are monsters and shit that freak your guy right the hell out.

Be warned, however: this game is maddeningly addictive, and incredibly frustrating. You will die. You will die a lot. Oh, you just built a house after ages of chopping/mining/other mindless harvesting activity? BOOM: lightning bolt, sucka. Oh, you built your house of stone so it won’t burn? Freakin’ WEREWOLVES.

Seriously, my last game I was doing SO WELL, and I retreated into my nice stone house when night fell, thinking I was safe. AND THEN A GODDAMNED PACK OF WEREWOLVES CAME AND DESTROYED MY HOUSE AND KILLED ME. AHHHHHH.

So, er, fair warning.

Don’t Starve is on sale for 50% off as of this writing. See the official site, or check it out on Steam.