'Nocturnal Animals' proves messy but effective

Writer/director Tom Ford’s follow-up to “A Single Man” is not an easy follow for its audience because it offers a complex story within a story.

“Nocturnal Animals” is a cinematic challenge, a film that isn’t afraid to explore dark places in a person’s psyche with disturbing sequences and moments that feel very cold and calculated.

Still, it’s a film I can’t shake – even though its coldness nearly left me cold.

Writer/director Tom Ford’s follow-up to “A Single Man” is not an easy follow for its audience because it offers a complex story within a story.

The first story centers on a bored gallery owner named Susan (Amy Adams) whose marriage to Hutton (Armie Hammer) is falling apart.

Susan receives a package from her first husband, Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), that contains the manuscript to his just completed novel. As Susan reads the novel, she starts to reflect on their failed relationship and begins to perhaps regret leaving Tony for Hutton.

The second story is actually the plot of the novel come to life with Gyllenhaal playing a man whose confrontation during a family vacation with his wife and daughter turns tragic.

Ford, who got his start in the fashion industry, brings a keen visual eye to “Animals” with a stark contrast between the colors and lavish interiors of Susan’s world compared to the dusty desert setting of the secondary story.

The balance between the two plots works for the most part, although eventually the novel’s plot becomes more interesting than the main story (mainly because of great work from Michael Shannon as a no-nonsense detective and a creepy turn from Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

Adams’ performance never clicks as well as the male leads, mainly because her character’s coldness makes it kind of hard to feel any empathy for her.

Susan’s story does result in a payoff that proves to be rather satisfying, enough so that it kind of saves the rest of the plot line.

“Nocturnal Animals” is definitely not for everyone, but it is a film that proves to be somewhat rewarding as long as you stay patient.

Also in theaters

Because nothing says the holidays like a horror movie originally scheduled for release Halloween weekend, “Incarnate” (D) arrives in theaters with little fanfare – and little reason to be taken seriously.

This weird mash-up of “Ghostbusters” and “The Exorcist” is too convoluted for its own good. The film takes itself seriously when it probably should have embraced its borderline silliness.

“Incarnate” stars Aaron Eckhart as Dr. Seth Ember, a scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed.

His latest case involves a boy named Jake (Emjay Anthony) who is possessed by a demon that seems to be more powerful than any he has faced before. Dr. Ember soon realizes the demon has a link to his own past – and the death of his family.

I’ll concede that the idea of having someone go into the subconscious to fight demons is an interesting enough premise. Eckhart’s opening scene does a good job of playing into that, but the film quickly evolves into your standard horror flick. This is the kind of generic story where a character instructs bystanders not to touch a potentially possessed person only to touch the person himself.

By no fault of Anthony, Jake is never as menacing as the film wants him to be. Eckhart tries his best, too, but the character is so cookie cutter it is hard to get much out of it.

About the best thing going for “Incarnate” is its 87-minute running time. It’s dull to watch, but hey at least it is over quickly.

“Incarnate” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of horror violence, terror, disturbing images, brief strong language, sensuality and thematic elements and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.

— To read Micheal Compton’s thoughts on other films visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/blogs/reel_to_reel or on Twitter @mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.

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Sports Writer. Cover prep sports, Hot Rods baseball, Titans football, and is the Daily News staff film critic.

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