Stopmotion Review

Connie Queline

Stopmotion Review

Wonderful animation and an incredible performance from Aisling Franciosi, make Stopmotion a horror film that cannot be missed.

PLOT: Ella Blake is a stop-motion animator who is struggling to control her demons after the loss of her overbearing mother. Suddenly alone in the world, she embarks upon the creation of a macabre new puppet film, which soon becomes the battleground for her sanity.

REVIEW: Every year, during the barren months of January and February, there’s always some horror movie that comes along and stuns. Last year had Infinity Pool, and 2024 has Stopmotion. Just like the former, the latter is a mind-bending, horrific experience. The melding of stop-motion animation with horror is the perfect pairing. But it’s the story of a young girl slowly going insane that will stick with you long after the credits roll.

Aisling Franciosi is absolutely incredible as Ella Blake, a young woman obsessed with animation. But her mother is so overbearing that she’s never really able to explore her own creative side. Tragedy strikes and Ella suddenly finds herself finally being able to express what’s deep down inside of her. She starts making a film of her own, but the horrors within the frame start seeping out into her life. Even that description could get some eyes rolling. I understand and acknowledge that. But it’s the execution of both the acting and the effects that help make this film stand out.

The quality of stop-motion animation in this film is top-tier. Which I suppose should be expected, given its namesake. But it’s hard not to be impressed with how seamlessly the animation is blended with the live-action footage. I’ll always have a soft spot for this style and think others will feel the same. The design of the puppets can best be described as disturbing nightmare fuel. And I say that with love. There’s a creepy puppet that reminded me of Slappy from Goosebumps. The main puppets’ almost organic look, made it all the grosser, and the sound design helped with the “ick factor.” Little touches like this really add to the visual language.

I often find myself annoyed with child performances in movies, because if they don’t work, they bring the entire movie down. Thankfully, Caoilinn Springall is fantastic as the Little Girl. The arc of her character is rather telegraphed but it still provides for some great moments. It’s challenging to make a tiny girl intimidating yet she’s able to take command of her scenes. I also appreciated Stopmotion for how fearless it was in its depiction of violence. Some of it quick, some of it prolonged, all leaving an impact. And it’s tied into the story and is so vital, that it’s hard to imagine the story without it.

If I had to pick something that didn’t entirely work for me, it’s the world of stop-motion being so prevalent. Everyone in the movie is passionate about the craft and has varying degrees of knowledge. It almost reaches a point of satire, especially with how seriously certain people take it. Ella’s obsession pairs well with her own sanity breaking down, but to see others treating it like it’s the “cool thing” to be doing is rather odd. There’s some unintentional humor that sprung up from this, just with how seriously it’s all taken. Thankfully the cinematography and sound design never let up, so these lesser moments can be quickly forgotten.

Stopmotion is a surreal experience from beginning to end. Anchored by phenomenal performances, the eerie score and stunning cinematography make for unique viewing. Robert Morgan has a history with animation, so it’s not surprising that this element is so masterfully done. But what is surprising, is how much of a veteran Morgan already is working with the actors. The performances all work in service of the story and I can’t say enough good things about Aisling. She’s an absolute force of nature and does so much with so little. Had this been just a 90-minute film of Ella meticulously making a short clip from her film, I’m sure it would have been riveting.

8

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