RJ Bayley Reviews: The Cat with the Hands & Monsters (Short Films)

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The Cat with the Hands

There’s something inherently creepy about stop motion animation. Most obviously Tim Burton has harnessed it’s staccato properties in his throwback family horrors. Director Robert Morgan however has created something altogether more disturbing. This victorian-set tale tells of two people, Old Man (Livy Armstrong) and Young Man (Daniel Hogwood-Kane) who set out to catch a monstrous cat that’s stealing people’s parts in order to become human itself. The film is bookended by live action segments, but it’s the central animated flashback sequence in which the cat with hands is realised. The cat is flat out weird, especially when licking its fingers in a way that seems so natural for a feline with fingers. It’s also kind of hilarious when the cat breaks from its overly cute demeanour to savage it’s victim, but this is quickly tempered as we see the result of the attack.

The denouement of the story is also a wonderfully dark twist on a common phrase that makes The Cat with Hands well worth a few minutes of your time.

★★★★

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Monsters

It’s not usually fair to criticise a film for being steadfastly earnest. After all no one can begrudge a sentiment that delivers the emotional wallop that comes with a good epic movie. In a horror film however it’s a less easy bedfellow. It can take away an emphasis on atmosphere and chills in favour of greater characterisation and relationship dynamics. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, but most horror scripts aren’t tooled that way, so the earnest attitude plonked onto a script not meant for it can make for a cringey watch.

Luckily Monsters is very aware of this and finds a home for its earnestness in its brother and sister protagonists. Stan (Jack Daly) and Mary (Jessica Ashworth) have your typical sibling antagonistic relationship, but the subtle script and Daly’s fantastic acting underpin Mary’s claims that there’s something strange about her brother. It makes for engrossing and queasy watching as we realise that Stan is a psychopath in the making ever before he’s started slaughtering animals. If this was a longer film it would pack more of an emotional punch and it’d be great to see this expanded. As it is though it’s still strong enough to be somewhat, if not totally, tragic and crushing.

★★★

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