Now Streaming: ANIMALES HUMANOS, Home Invasion Thriller From Lex Ortega on Amazon Prime
Roy and Fabiola live in an upscale Mexican neighbourhood with their daughter Teresa. They live next door to Anahi and Chava and their son, Jagger, a German Shepherd dog who is like a son to Anahi. Roy and Chava are friendly enough that the two husbands can shoot the shit and some hoops in the backyard. Fabiola is a bit more apprehensive around Chava and their dog though, as it frightens Teresa. The neighbours try to get along but the inevitable happens and Jagger bites Teresa. Roy calls in favors and Jagger is taken from Anahi and Chava. Upset at their loss Anahi and Chava dig into their past lives and plot their revenge against Roy and Fabiola: an eye for an eye.
Lex Ortega’s home invasion thriller, Animals Humanos, unceremoniously arrived on Amazon Prime last week. After it’s hometown world premiere at Morbido Fest in December it fell off the map until Ortega himself sent us a note last week about it. We even had to go online and confirm it for ourselves because no one knew if territories other than the LatAm had it. Otherwise we would have never known. Which is why we’re more than a week late on this.
I’m going to tread lighter than usual here because friends have worked together on this movie, to help Ortega get his foot further in the door of the studio system. I’ve joked with Ortega before, that whenever I’m in Mexico he needs to take me off the beaten path, show me something that’s not tourist-centric, but not the “beating path”. I don’t need to do anything that will make him choose the latter.
“Where are we going today? Tepito? Sounds neat!”
As I just said, what Animales Humanos does is it helps my friend get his feet wet, as a director, in the studio system. Ortega’s filmography up to now has been fiercely independent and leaning heavily into the extreme. I’ve endured his work on many occasions, yet, while watching Animales Humanos, I found myself wanting some of that old Ortega back. There are glimpses of it in Animales Humanos, as the story escalates in the back half. The knives come out and there is fragile flesh to be torn into.
There are flourishes and flashes, in the violence that does happen, that harkens back to Ortega’s DIY filmmaking days. There are scenes of euthanasia are particularly hard to stomache and are not meant for entertainment. That’s Ortega the dog owner and lover, not the filmmaker, speaking there. There is also an especially harrowing scene involving Teresa, looking outside as she is trapped inside a neighbour’s house.
There are little things that go unsaid that are meant for Roy and Fabiola, to unite them in their cause, to overcome Anahi and Chava when they come in, knives out. Though it is not spoken of outright there are allusions to a history of alcoholism in the family. Roy is too busy setting up his consultancy business to agree to have a dinner date with his wife. There is a quiet friction between Roy and Fabiola that they must overcome if there are to survive the assault.
Unfortunately there is not much, other than the set up and character motivation, in Animales Humanos that sets it apart from other home invasion films. With so many accomplished writers contributing to the overall story, the movie still comes across as an average thriller. Sadly, there is nothing going on here that elevates the home invasion genre.
Animales Humanos serves as a foot in the door, for an artist that has been pounding the pavement with his brand of extreme horror, it shows that he can handle and deliver a decent commercial thriller. There is a level of spit and polish here that we have not seen in Ortega's DIY work proving that he can make things looks just as nice as he can bloody. It is an opportunity to see this other side of his filmmaking skills.
What Ortega needs is a studio like early days Blumhouse, a studio with projects that are commercially viable and definitively horrific. Projects that need filmmakers that are resourceful and creative with a minimum of resources. It’s been good for Ortega to do something different from their extreme horror vision. Our hope is that there are scripts out there that have that middle ground between commercial viability and horror that takes you to the edge. There has to be.
If you have such a project Ortega is your guy to make it.