Review: Furries should avoid 'Hyenas'
On one hand, not exactly the greatest movie premise ever. On the other hand, it worked on me.
Right here it should be said Hyenas is a bad movie. Besides the obvious reasons a low budget, straight-to-DVD creature feature might not be worth your time, it manages to offend in ways it didn't mean to.
So here's fair warning for any other furry hyena fans hoping for at least a glimmer of decency: look elsewhere.
The movie begins with the mauling of a mother and her infant child by a clan of the titular hyenas. That isn't the offensive part. If you've got problems with infant mortality, maybe horror isn't your genre. This scene also contains the movie's only decent jump scare — though, amusingly enough, when the mother is taken down her expression seems to be one of confusion rather than terror.
The husband and father of this unlucky pair finds the local sheriff's department stereotypically unhelpful. Luckily for him, he's almost immediately kidnapped at gunpoint by a strange black man who knows about the hyenas; apparently because he is black. The first whiff of offensiveness begins to make its presence known.
We're told about the titular hyenas in a scene that explicitly breaks the fourth wall, and blithely reveals that an important character will not be appearing in Hyenas 2: The Last Laugh. We discover that they came to America aboard slave ships, and the unfortunate implications truly begin. Somehow it is never explained whether they are humans that transform into hyenas, or hyenas that shapeshift into humans.
Luckily the hyenas are a pretty racially diverse group when we get to know them. The really racially offensive part comes in the B-plot.
While our heroes hunt down the clan of hyenas, we are treated to a bizarre rendition of West Side Story, minus the singing, dancing and artistic merit. It seems that in this small, unnamed California town, lines have been drawn between the white and Hispanic youths, though a couple has formed that challenges these two sides. The Hispanics – nominally the "good" side, fighting against the racist whites – come off as racist caricatures themselves.
Not only is this offensive, it is also completely pointless. The hyena plot and the love subplot remain completely and utterly separate until the climax — where, once again, confusion rather than fear is the primary emotion expressed.
Racist stereotypes aside, these characters are not likeable. They are remarkably stupid. A character is sent out into the woods on a snipe hunt. That isn't a metaphor. He literally stands around shouting "Snipe!" while the rest of cast hides in the bushes and laughs. The hyenas' failure to immediately devour the protagonists of this half of the movie makes their final defeat that much more deserved.
This is obviously a low-budget movie; you can't expect much. That said, Hyenas contains some decent CGI work. It also contains some bad CGI work.
An early morphing transformation is fairly startling. Later transformations involving close-ups are laughable failures of both CGI and make-up. A final fight between two rivals for alpha female of the clan was disappointing on so many levels.
Amusingly, hyenas strip before transformation. Well, the female ones do, anyway. That being said, the nudity, while gratuitous, was oddly done. Certain anatomical features were obviously blurred, which made the whole thing even more embarrassing.
Gore was treated similarly. A respectable mock-up of a half-eaten corpse is shown for less than a second, at an oblique angle. Other directors would probably have let the camera linger, if for no other reason than to show off a fairly expensive prop. For a movie that begins with the death of an infant, it seems remarkably squeamish about nudity and gore.
The hyenas are either fully human or fully hyena, with one late exception. In that case, the character's makeup seems to consist of smeared grey and green body paint, red contacts and goofy fangs.
Furry fans should almost certainly skip this movie, if for no other reason than most people should avoid this movie. Those hoping for a halfway-decent anthro hyena or two won't find anything here.
The best part of this movie was the credits, which revealed one of the female hyenas' names, Savannah. That was actually kind of cute.