Corporate Animals movie review: work is hell

Corporate Animals green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

Corporate culture gets a delightfully twisted kick in the ass when a “team-building retreat” turns disastrous. As horror vies with comedy, the pitch(black)-perfect cast gets the balance just right.
I’m “biast” (pro): love a good black comedy
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

Stultifying corporate culture gets much needed — and very bleakly funny — kick in the ass in the delightfully twisted Corporate Animals. When boss-from-hell Lucy (Demi Moore: Very Good Girls) takes a small gang of her employees on a “team-building retreat” in a New Mexico cave system, it all goes disastrously wrong almost immediately, and this decidedly incohesive group suddenly finds that figuring out how to work well together is now literally a matter of life or death.

Horror vies with comedy for the cinematic upper hand, which wouldn’t work anywhere near as well as it does without the pitch(black)-perfect cast. Jessica Williams (Booksmart) and Karan Soni (Always Be My Maybe), as the lieutenants Lucy has been playing against each other, dig deep for sly snark as the closest the movie has to straight (wo)men; Martha Kelly and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (CHiPs) are standouts for their glorious deadpan, and Ed Helms (Love the Coopers) as the group’s spelunking guide is a particular hoot, too.

Corporate Animals Ed Helms Demi Moore
TFW the idea to try to whip your team into shape is starting to seem like a bad one…

Screenwriter Sam Bain might not here reach the scathing heights of Four Lions — the terrorist comedy that is one of the best satires of recent years, on which he was a cowriter — but he finds a similar balance between genuine shock and suspense on one hand and outrageous irony and absurdity on the other. I often wasn’t sure whether I was gasping and snorting more out of surprise or out of mirth.

And as he did with his odd and amusing The Overnight, though with much broader strokes, director Patrick Brice coaxes unexpected pathos out of people pushed past their breaking points. The extremes are pretty extreme… except that the overarching joke at play is that our workplaces can be just as brutally damaging, psychologically if not always physically, as what goes on here.

first viewed during the 2019 Sundance London film festival

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