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Review: Stop Motion

‘Stop Motion’ is an unnerving horror movie whose unique and striking visuals offer an equally unsettling abstract edge.

The plot is simple, whilst the execution is both thought provoking and intricate.

 The movie opens as an elderly lady recruits her reluctant daughter to help her complete what would be her final stop motion animated film. Riddled with arthritis, and ultimately suffering a stroke, the old dear is far from kind to her daughter Ella who is in awe of her mother’s talent, whilst clearly lacking confidence in herself. Once her mother is in hospital, she takes it upon herself to complete the work. However, a distrust in her friends, a paranoia potentially bought on by the grief of her loss, and her own lack of self-worth makes it difficult for her to progress. That is until she is frequented by a young girl living in her building, how, after chastising Ella for how boring her current project is, suggests another story and insists on using a range of macabre mediums from which to sculpt the models.

From here on in, through drug abuse, pressure from her failing social relationships and the ever increasing absurdity of the young girls recommendations, Ella begins to unravel, just as her creations begin to take shape.

There is a lot of style on tap, and whilst the story might have shifted from metaphor and suggestion to literal telling by the time the credits role there is a feeling of unease and intended awkwardness that never lets up.

The acting is solid enough, and whilst I wouldn’t suggest the scripting is particularly strong, the visuals and use of colour and space consistently convey a feeling that things just aren’t right. Everything is very relatable, but it just feels off. The live action sections occupy the majority of the movie, and a plenty engaging, even if they feel a bit jarring in their tone and pacing at times. It an effective tool to keep the atmosphere tense and ever present.  

The movie isn’t scary per se but as I’ve said, its not a comfortable watch. The movies more traditional horror come from stop motion sequences which often mirror the story that the young girl tells. She tells of a girl, lost in the woods, all alone. Well almost, she’s pursued by a horror of an entity called ‘The Ashman’.

When you consider that the models are infused with blood, raw meat, morticians wax, and dead fox it doesn’t take a genius to realise that nothing good is going to come of completing the project.

Sure enough, whether it’s a manifestation of grief, loss or artistic struggle, or whether the whole thing was allegorical and what we are seeing as literal, was actually all in Ella’s head there are some awesome grossout sequences involving the stop motion characters.

From some ugly monster eating the face off another equally grotesque figuring to wounds being ripped open the film gets quite gruesome at times, particularly towards the end offering something of a ‘reward’ through sitting through what is quite a miserable and slow paced first hour.

Its all meticulously crafted mind you, awkward, but never boring.

Overall, there is a place in my collection for movies like ‘Stop Motion’. I don’t think its perhaps quite as abstract as some people might be expecting (or indeed want), but for me it was fine. Whilst the story ended up being somewhat simple, reaching a neat conclusion, there is plenty of left field imagery, symbolism and complex themes addressed in the movie to make the viewer work a little harder than most horror movies. The gross out stop motion scenes didn’t disappoint either and I’d recommend anyone who likes their horror movies to be a little more abstract to check it out.

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