(director/writer: Robert Morgan; screenwriter: Robin King; cinematographer: Leo Hinstin; editor: Aurora Vogeli; music: Lola de la Mata; cast: Aisling Franciosi (Ella Blake), Stella Gonet (Suzanne Blake), Tom York (Tom), Caoilinn Springall (Little Girl), Therica Wilson-Read (Polly), James Swanton (The Ash Man), Jaz Hutchins (Bret), Joshua J Parker (Will); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Alain de la Mata, Christopher Granier-Deferre; IFC/Shudder; 2024-UK)

“A sinister tale leading to madness.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

 English animator Robert Morgan, known for his weird short films like “Bobby Yeah,” directs and co-writes his weird first feature film with Robin King. The partly animated scary horror pic mixes live-action with stop-motion animated-creatures, and provides a disturbing premise that’s played out as a sinister tale leading to madness.

Morgan has been influenced by filmmakers like the Quay Brothers, which is especially telling in this suspenseful film that turns with a  twist into a wildly gory final act with the film’s main character cannibalizing her own body to sustain the repulsive figurines she’s filming in stop-motion.

The vulnerable stop-motion animator Ella Blake (Aisling Franciosi) is always trying to please her celebrated despotic stop-motion animator filmmaker mother (Stella Gonet). 

After mom’s stroke, hospitalization and death, Ella decides to finish mom’s last project, an animated puppet film about a cyclops, on her own.

She moves into an unoccupied apartment building and meets a strange 11-year-old girl (Caoilinn Springall) hanging around outside the building, where she might also live. The girl makes outlandish suggestions of how Ella should make the film into a fairy tale. The suggestions include using raw meat and mortician’s wax to make the puppets look more real. Following the little girl’s suggestions brings Ella down a dark path whereby reality and fantasy intersect, and her nightmarish visions drive her nuts so she can’t distinguish the difference between the desire to be creative and the urge to be destructive.

Morgan’s animated figures are a work of art, Franciosi’s mesmerizing performance is the glue that holds the film together, while the psychological part of the film is less than taxing. 

REVIEWED ON 4/17/2024  GRADE: B+