The European horror market tends to supply two forms of horror to its friends across the Atlantic. Firstly, we see imaginative, dramatic, and atmospheric horror films in the form of indie-style set pieces. Secondly, we get some of the most brutal and offensive material ever conceived on film. In both formats, we usually receive a hefty dose of originality and courage that is otherwise absent with the success of mainstream horror genres in the US. When Animals Dream from Denmark definitely falls into the former category, displaying a strong amount of dramatic tension in the form of character development and visual storytelling.
In many ways this film reminded me of Let the Right One In. In fact, one could say it was the werewolf equivalent of the critically-acclaimed vampire flick. But like many werewolf films that get compared to their vampire counterparts, it plays second fiddle to the orchestra that was LTROI. This isn't to dismiss WAD at all, as LTROI was an incredibly well-made film that just happened to deliver a fantastic story with the perfect blend of cinematography, special effects, and acting to tell the tale. WAD carried two of these elements well, but its lack of impact in its special effects shots diluted the impact the drama developed.
Eventually I found the climax lacking because of the uninspired creature design. I suppose the argument for a more human, realistic werewolf guise fitting the role of the film best could be made, and with good reason considering how grounded and personal the film felt. Yet, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that the transformation never felt complete given the slow mutation we'd been teased with throughout the film.
That aside, I found WAD to be a very well produced slow-burner. The acting is impactful and the cinematography is atmospheric and speaks volumes, while the subtle metaphors of womanhood and loneliness seep through the visceral detail of the young protagonist's transformations, behaviorly and physically. The intention of a werewolf's original purpose in cinema is found earnestly in this film. It reminds us that werewolves were originally intended not as merely the go-to monster for the anti-vampire fanatic, but a manifestation of the evil or ferocity of man, that everyone fights their own Hulk, essentially, from within.
I try to be aware that there will be cultural references in foreign films that I will be incapable of picking up on as an American. It is a fact of not being knowledgeable of other countries' heritage or their history that I have to come to terms with when viewing a film outside of the United States. Because of that, I believe there are more things to grasp from this film than what I detailed above. Yet, the film achieved a lot that transcended its place of origin. Perhaps not to the quality of LTROI, but not meeting that bar is hardly a condition a film should be ashamed of.