Ánimas is a thrilling and stylistic exploration of the human psyche, taking audiences on a journey through the subconscious mind.
Ánimas tells the story of two lifelong friends as they come face to face with their troubles and inner demons in a bid to survive the woes of life. From a young age Álex and Abraham (Bram) were unbreakable, it was them against the world, during adolescence and traumatic pasts they have fought to be each other’s strongest support. Álex, a troubled young woman, plagued with low self-esteem and the urge to self-harm, begins to see apparitions. Audio and visual hallucinations begin to haunt Álex’s daily life, and things go from bad to worse as her only confidant, Bram, is preoccupied with his new girlfriend. With nowhere to turn Álex must figure out what is happening as her world begins to crumble and her mind begins to unravel.
Inspired by the novel of the same name by José Ortuño, Ánimas is a twist on the original narrative. In the novel there is no Álex per se, the story is written as though the reader plays her role. This contributes to a thrilling and atmospheric read in which the reader becomes part of the universe in question. An intense story that invites readers to look into their own consciousness in order to understand and solve the protagonist’s situation. The style of writing is not so easily translated to the movie platform, and unfortunately, this level of investment isn’t quite captured. As the audience, we are intrigued to discover the purpose of Álex’s torment but not quite enough to feel passionate about or enthralled in her journey of discovery. This is most likely due to the inconsistent and muddled storyline, in a bid not to give too much away, the narrative often feels a little confused and seems to use unnecessary ploys in order to add mystery and defy the audience’s current theories.
This being said, Ánimas is still fascinating in structure, taking influence from all sides of modern and old school thrillers. We see techniques and nods to famous works from creative minds such as Alfred Hitchcock and Guillermo del Toro. Ánimas feels like a love letter written for those who admire and appreciate the horror/thriller genre. The corny sight of a young child dressed as Freddy Krueger adds to the consistent reminder that these filmmakers have a deep love for their chosen picture. Alongside this, Ánimas works as a satisfying psychological thriller, in a literal sense the production design works to signify the presence of different consciousnesses, using layers and mirrors to great effect to cunningly and often subtly attempt to separate different states of mentality and being. Throughout the movie audiences are treated to these techniques but not without faults, although stunning to look at some techniques can seem out of place and strange in use. This again can lead to disengagement as the visuals can sometimes feel more style over substance, looking to add flair where it doesn’t belong in an attempt to be original.
Alongside the above-mentioned visuals, the most aesthetically pleasing details of Ánimas lies within the lighting and prop design. Neon colors and grungy environments juxtapose to create a vibe that is not unlike that experienced in Blade Runner. Although not as impressive in grandeur, the production team nailed the Neon Noir design, joining an ever-expanding library of films that explore the culture of electric light and its connection to moral ambivalence. The cinematography is gorgeous, albeit often a bit jumbled and not always similar in style. With stylised shots overheard and contorted camera movement working together to add to the chaos of the story, highlighting the twists and turns that our protagonist finds herself in. Ánimas also explores reality from a completely new perspective, exclusive in approach, the existence of our main characters is unlike anything I’ve seen before, unfortunately, I cannot say much more in fear of spoiling the narrative.
Overall Ánimas is a compelling thriller that holds it’s own whilst also borrowing from movies we’ve come to love as cult classics. Luckily this is done in a respectful and clear way, as to shine a light on these techniques and famous tropes rather than to steal from them. Although disorganized and a little incoherent in places, Ánimas is an entertaining watch with a meaningful ending. All in all the movie tackles some dark and pressing issues including abuse, self-harm, and mental health, providing viewers with a heartfelt, yet chilling movie-going experience. I would highly recommend this film and will audiences to try and solve Álex’s problem before she does.