FrightFest 2016 Film Review – Pet (2016)

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Animal shelter worker Seth is cemented in the rut of an unremarkable and relatively anonymous existence when he bumps into a beautiful blast from his high school past.

After mustering the spunk to grab rejection by the testicles, Seth’s attempts to woo-stalk gorgeous waitress Holly become hopelessly derailed. Staggering emotionally disorientated through the wreckage of a romantic blood-rush, he concludes that the best environment to nurture his unrequited love is a locked cage in the basement of his workplace.

The utterly bat-shit blueprints of Seth’s backup plan are as much as any respectful synopsis should betray, because Pet just happens to harbour one of the most voraciously gratifying twists ever to grace the horror genre.

Juggling misogynistic and feminist preconceptions behind a delicate veil of cinematic misdirection, you will not see this machiavellian plot juggernaut coming until it’s too late – and you are nothing more than bone splintered reveal-kill.

However, Carles Torrens’ tantalisingly trashy thriller is much more than a well-timed, bloodstained rug-pull.

The casting of Dominic Monaghan (Lost) as the troubled Seth and Ksenia Solo (Black Swan) as the impounded Holly is inspired. Both the leads emanate a level of  believability and commitment that pumps gravitas into the plot holes and solidifies the flick’s foundations.

Jennette McCurdy from the upcoming Little Bitches provides crisp support, while Da’Vone McDonald (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) injects some much-needed humour, and there’s even a cameo from The Big Bang Theory to watch out for.

Pet is ergonomically edited by Elena Ruiz, who did such great work on The Orphanage, and composer Zacarias M. de la Riva compounds his quality with another fine score, hot on the heels of his salient contribution to Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s stunning Evolution.

It’s Jeremy Slater’s blistering script however that proves the most reactive element in the films mind blowing catalyst. Swerving unexpectedly off the skid marked road to torture porn town, and pursuing a far more morally complex compass instead, allows for a truly immersive, refreshingly adult approach to schlock horror.

Essentially a contorted black hole of a love story, Slater’s screenplay languished in the clutches of MGM for a full 7 years. The treatment was earmarked  for the kind of big budget histrionics reminiscent of mainstream potboilers Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, before being liberated by Torrens and his group of backers.

This kind of extended shelving normally wounds a project mortally but Pet angles it to its nefarious advantage in two essential ways :

Firstly the forced maturation process creates a barbed time-warp that shoves the film directly in the faces of the disconnected Instagram generation, whilst at the same time tapping into the heightened understanding of social anxiety to syphon off empathy.

Secondly, the downsized budgetary resources compel the story to walk the path down its darkest denominator, generating the calamitous velocity required for perfect car crash cinema.

Pet is a deliciously duplicitous thriller that strips away the bitter rind enveloping obsession in order to illuminate the darkest crevices of the human condition. Standing on the compact shoulders of a masterly script to peer over the barricades of social awkwardness, Pet is a grisly, lurid, and shamefully entertaining parable of our times.

★★★★1/2| Bradley Hadcroft

Horror, Psychological Thriller| USA/Spain, 2016 |93mins |Signature Entertainment| Frightfest World Premiere, Aug 26th, 2016 | Dir. Carles Torrens | Jennette McCurdy, Ksenia Solo, Dominic Monaghan