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Review of ‘Stopmotion’: IFC’s Partially Animated Creepshow Infected by Art

An accomplished English animator has rightfully earned a collection of awards over the past twenty-five years for acclaimed short films such as “The Cat With Hands,” “The Separation,” and the delightfully eerie “Bobby Yeah.” Their dark and surreal creations possess a captivating blend of menace and peculiar charm, drawing parallels to the distinct styles of the Brothers Quay, early David Lynch, and the painter Francis Bacon—artists who have notably influenced the director.

Despite a successful career in short films, the animator has been cautious in venturing into longer formats, and their first feature film reinforces the wisdom behind this decision. While bearing similarities to their previous works with a mix of animation and live-action sequences, “” highlights the challenges of adapting such a unique and fantastical vision to meet the demands of a full-length narrative.

This narrative, reminiscent of “Repulsion,” follows the harrowing journey of a fragile young woman descending into madness, portrayed by the talented lead from “The Nightingale.” The film captivates viewers with its vivid depiction of grotesque imagination that escalates throughout the story. However, the struggle lies in grounding these fantastical elements within a coherent real-world context—a domain where the director, Morgan, and co-writer Robin King, falter in portraying character actions, psychology, and dialogue beyond the protagonist’s disturbed mind.

Scheduled for release by IFC on U.S. screens starting February 23rd (followed by a general VOD release on March 15th and a streaming debut on Shudder on May 31st), “Stopmotion” delves into the classic horror trope of a cursed creation turning against its creator. The protagonist, Suzanne Blake (played by Stella Gonet), an acclaimed animator known for her meticulous craft of bringing inanimate objects to life on screen, faces the grim reality of her physical limitations, leaving her daughter Ella (portrayed by Franciosi) to carry on her artistic legacy.

Ella, burdened by her mother’s critical teachings and self-doubt, embarks on her creative journey in a new apartment/studio, where she encounters a mysterious young neighbor (Caoilinn Springall) who becomes the inspiration for a new stop-motion project centered around the ominous “Ash Man.” As Ella immerses herself in this collaborative endeavor, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, the narrative unfolds into a chilling exploration of mental deterioration and body horror, skillfully portrayed by Franciosi.

While the film excels in crafting haunting visuals and evocative soundscapes, courtesy of the talented production team, it falls short in fleshing out the supporting characters and establishing a coherent narrative framework. The portrayal of Ella’s relationships outside her artistic realm lacks depth, with underdeveloped characters that fail to anchor the story in a relatable reality, hindering the sense of impending threat essential for a compelling thriller.

“Stopmotion” grapples with a dichotomy between its richly imaginative style and the narrative’s emotional depth, struggling to bridge the gap between the fantastical and the mundane. Despite the director’s undeniable creative prowess, the film falters when attempting to navigate conventional storytelling conventions, underscoring the importance of balancing visual artistry with cohesive storytelling elements to deliver a truly immersive cinematic experience.