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My Animal is a must-see teen werewolf film coming out of Sundance

My Animal, directed by Jacqueline Castel and written by Jae Matthews, stars Bobbi Salvör Menuez as a teen werewolf who falls for a girl played by Amandla Stenberg. Here’s why the Sundance hit is a must-see horror-romance. Continue reading…



The werewolf is an interesting creature in folklore. In one sense, they’re a shapeshifter filled with bloodlust who wreaks havoc as soon as they change form. But in another, it’s like they represent loneliness — living at the whims of the moon and often left on their own, only to howl into the void. 

Read more: 15 years later, the horror-comedy Teeth still has bite

Jacqueline Castel’s My Animal is a horror-romance that recently premiered at Sundance Film Festival and has the raging spirit of the lycanthrope flowing through its veins. A visually bewitching film that’s laden with intense yet gentle sexual longing, it follows the romance that unfolds between teenagers Jonny (Amandla Stenberg), who is new to town, and Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez), a hockey player who would be otherwise unassuming, except for the fact that she’s a werewolf. The film reverberates with the howl of the wolf inside of Heather, making it one of the must-see titles to come out of the festival. (Audiences will be able to see it soon, too, as it was acquired before its premiere by Paramount.)

Bobbi Salvör Menuez my animal


[Bobbi Salvör Menuez / Courtesy of Sundance Institute]

My Animal, which premiered at the Midnight section of the festival, marks the feature film debut from Jacqueline Castel, who’s known for directing music videos for the likes of Caleb Landry Jones, Zola Jesus, and others. It’s also the first full-length screenplay from Jae Matthews, who’s best known for fronting the band Boy Harsher, but studied film and wrote the award-winning short Dirt. (Boy Harsher also provides the score for the film.) 

The film is a very personal statement from both Castel and Matthews. “Jae Matthews wrote [the script] in the aftermath of her stepfather’s death when she returned home to be with her mother, who was grieving, and returning to high school memories,” Jacqueline Castel told AltPress in an interview at Sundance. “When I first read the script, I felt instantly connected. I felt like there were a lot of parallels to things I had experienced in my own life. There are certain scripts you read, and you just feel a connection to. It was just immediate, instinctual with My Animal.”

Together, they crafted a moody and evocative film about connecting to your true identity and finding strength in who you really are, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Expounding on the teen-monster genre, it uses the horror construct of the werewolf to show a young woman’s transformation from a person frightened of her own power to someone who embraces it — and does not apologize for it. 

my animal sundance


[Bobbi Salvör Menuez / Courtesy of Sundance Institute]

The film opens to a striking fantasy sequence that shows the effect of the full moon on Heather and the consequences of one night when she doesn’t return home in time. It contrasts between the brilliant milky white, snow-covered landscape of her small hometown and the inky seductive darkness that seems to surround Heather. Instead of princess stuck in a tower, Heather is a hockey player who surrenders her stick and mask, and chains herself to the floor of the family home that feels distinctly cold and unwelcoming to the young shapeshifter. It’s almost as cold as the chilly scenes outside. While Heather attempts to find a place for herself among the people who surround her, she finds hostility and a lack of understanding even from her loved ones. When she meets Jonny, though, and they share an immediate connection, that all starts to change. 

My Animal is drenched in purple and red hues and swirling psychedelic imagery that contrasts with the stark white snow outside. In such a cold place, Heather’s passion burns brightly. In even minute graduations of expression, Bobbi Salvör Menuez and Amandla Stenberg have palpable chemistry that warms their shared scenes as their characters let the growing friendship and queer passion between them radiate from their faces and bodies until it can no longer be denied. 

The symbolism of the werewolf in My Animal isn’t so much about the horror of an unwanted transformation and violence, but one of personal power and a strong sense of one’s own identity. While the image of the lone wolf is a well-known trope, in actuality, wolves are actually socialized pack animals who work cooperatively to survive. They need each other to endure and to thrive. 

The untamed spirit of the werewolf runs through the film, restless and wild. It’s a very apt metaphor for people who are othered in our society who need to find their way to acceptance and love, firstly and most importantly from themselves and then from others. 


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