Aisling Franciosi in Stopmotion
Aisling Franciosi in Stopmotion

“Stopmotion” (2023) Review: Descent into an Animator’s Madness

Oh man, oh man! Where do I even start with Stopmotion? This flick is like a deliriously nightmarish descent straight into the twisted mind of a brilliant but tormented artist.

You’ve got your classic setup – talented young animator Ella has been living under the oppressive shadow of her legendary stop-motion master of a mother. But when dear old mum kicks the bucket, something…unhinges in Ella’s psyche. And that familiar “tortured artist goes mad” premise gets one hell of an unsettling new spin with the stop-motion animation angle.

See, instead of an unbalanced painter splattering canvases with blood or a crazed sculptor trapping folks in molten wax, we get an animator whose mania plays out in the jerky, unsettling movements of tiny figurines. The use of that uncanny stop-motion style isn’t just a gimmick either – it’s like the sickly beating heart pumping anxiety straight into this crazy tale.

Every tiny thrust of an arm or flick of a head takes on this deeply disturbing quality as Ella’s creation, a nightmarish kiddie-horror about a young girl stalked by the dreaded “Ashman,” starts weaving itself into her fragile reality. The old “did I really see that?” unease takes on insane new dimensions when you literally can’t trust your own eyes!

So for a die-hard horror fan starved for new depraved delights, Stopmotion’s fresh yet grotesquely nostalgic spin on artistic insanity is a total gift. Buckle up, babies, this one’s gonna get wonderfully ugly!

Aisling Franciosi in Stopmotion
Aisling Franciosi in Stopmotion

The Good Parts of Stopmotion

Oh but the gloriously deranged visuals are just the putrid, pus-oozing tip of this diseased iceberg! Let me tell you, as both a horror devotee and a creator myself, Stopmotion burrows so disturbingly deep into the psychological horrors of the artistic process.

It’s like director Robert Morgan cracked open his skull and let all his most depraved, unspoken creative demons slither out onto the screen. Every grotesque handcrafted frame oozes with the agonizing struggle of bringing a perverse vision to life. You can feel the obsessive mania, the self-doubt, the fear that the sick images you’ve manifested say something terribly wrong about your own psyche.

And at the clammy, pulsating heart of it all is Aisling Franciosi as Ella, giving, hands down, one of the most skin-crawlingly committed performances I’ve seen in ages. The way she fully surrenders herself to her character’s descent is…transcendent. Transfixing. Like you’re not just watching an actor, but some poor soul actually losing their tenuous grasp on reality.

Her twitchy, hollow-eyed intensity is utterly captivating – you can’t tear your gaze away even as Ella spirals into the most repulsive, unblinking depths of her depraved new “project.” Franciosi fully embodiesthe nightmare of having your darkest creative impulses take the reins.

And that’s why Stopmotion truly unsettles in a way most horror films can only dream of. The blending of stop-motion animation and live-action creates this constantly slipping delirium where you can never trust what’s real and what’s just the diseased fingerprints of Ella’s festering imagination. By the climax, the line between art and existence has blurred into a grotesquely beautiful oblivion.

What I didn’t like about Stopmotion

Look, I’m not gonna lie to you horror hounds – as brilliantly depraved as Stopmotion gets, it’s not a perfect fright feast. While the artistic hellscape on display is enough to scar itself into your cerebrum for years, the narrative backbone doesn’t always support those meaty psychological themes and visuals.

For one thing, as refreshingly unique as the stop-motion spin is, the overall arc still leans heavily on some pretty moldy genre cliches. The “artist descending into insanity” trope has been chewed on by so many previous skin-crawlers that Stopmotion’s exploration of that terrain doesn’t always break new shadowy ground. There’s a lack of nuance that keeps it from transcending its familiar starting point.

Likewise, while Franciosi’s performance is a tour-de-force descent into creative madness, Ella herself remains a somewhat one-note character study. Outside of her fraying grip on reality, we don’t get a fully fleshed-out portrait of who she was before the demons took hold or what deeper insecurities and neuroses fueled her undoing.

Which is a shame, because the film clearly wants to dig into those richer psychological layers and say something profound about the horrors that can lurk in an artist’s fecund mind. But too often it lazily falls back on tired shock value rather than fully mining those intriguing themes.

And make no mistake, we’re talking serious shock value here. Even by the gratuitously gory standards of the genre, Stopmotion goes to repulsively squamous places with its depictions of violence and viscera. Meat puppets brought literally to life through butchery, viscera oozing from every handcrafted frame – this one is not for the faint of stomach. There were times I found myself almost admiring the ballsy commitment to depravity…and others where I felt like a line had been crossed into grimly excessive territory.

So for all its artistic ambition and successful world-of-mouth nightmare fuel, Stopmotion ultimately can’t quite transcend its own limitations to fully deliver on its deliciously twisted premise. A must-see for any horror devotee? Absolutely. An insightful psychological masterpiece? Not quite…but oh, does it get massively under your skin trying.

Aisling Franciosi in Stopmotion
Aisling Franciosi in Stopmotion

The Movies Meaning and Theme

The core themes that Stopmotion grapples with revolve around the mysterious nature of the creative process itself. Where do our ideas and artistic impulses originate from? The film poses this question in an unsettling way by depicting Ella’s descent into obsessive madness as her own depraved stop-motion project seems to take on a disturbing life of its own.

There’s an inherent anxiety that creative types often face about the origins of our darkest, most visceral inspirations. If we can conceive of and give form to something so twisted, what does that say about the depths of our own psyche? Stopmotion taps into that fear in an uncommonly literal way, presenting Ella’s increasingly gory and violent puppet animations as physical manifestations of her repressed inner demons.

The blurring of lines between Ella’s creation and her reality embodies the sense that once an idea takes root in an artist’s mind, it can start to consume and even overtake their sense of what’s real. Her compulsive need to keep realizing her disturbing vision parallels how stories and artistic concepts can sometimes feel like they demand to be expressed, regardless of the creator’s inhibitions.

The visceral, handcrafted nature of the stop-motion work, using actual butchered meat and animal parts, works as a visceral metaphor for this theme. It visualizes the idea that for artists, the creative process often requires an almost physical, painful form of “bloodletting” – expelling one’s obsessive ideas and personal torments into an external form. Taken to its extreme, Stopmotion illustrates the psychological horror of having those primal creative urges fully overwhelm and pervert one’s grip on reality.

So while over-the-top in its execution at times, the film does effectively utilize its unique stop-motion aesthetic to explore thought-provoking questions about the relationship between art and artist’s disturbed psyche. It confronts the notion that our most personal creative works can take on lives of their own, for better or worse.

Stopmotion (2023)
Stopmotion (2023)

Should you watch Stopmotion?

The big question is should I watch this movie?

So listen up my fellow freaks and ghouls! Stopmotion may not quite ascend to the pantheon of all-time great psychological horror mind-screws, but sweet Samara does it ever put up one hell of a glorious, gory fight!

For sheer depraved visuals and an aesthetic so unnervingly realized it bores straight into your nightmares, this twisted little gem easily scores…oh, let’s say a delirious 4.5 out of 5 Tombstones! Robert Morgan’s handcrafted horrorshow is a true labor of sickening love from a creator willing to peel back his skull and let you goggle at the oozing insanity within.

Yeah, the story treads some pretty familiar “artist goes bananas” territory and doesn’t always fully mine the rich thematic depths it tantalizes you with. And good ghoul, does it ever careen into straight-up grotesque torture porn territory at times with all the meat puppet mayhem! I half-expected the ghost of Lucio Fulci to appear and give a big bloody thumbs up.

But you can’t accuse Stopmotion of not fully committing to its diseased vision! This is uncompromising, boundary-pushing, get-under-your-skin-and-stay-there stuff. The kind of flick that diehard horror fiends will be desperately rewatching on tattered DVD copies in 20 years, cackling over what a forgotten cult classic it was.

Aisling Franciosi’s unhinged performance alone is worth the price of admission, like watching a human psyche being skinned alive before your eyes. Her raw, unflinching work is a big big reason why Stopmotion sticks its meathook into your brain stem and simply will not let go, no matter how much you squirm.

So for any self-respecting freak with a thirst for new depraved thrills and a fascination with what demented things might be lurking in the minds of artists, Stopmotion is essential, nightmare-inscribing viewing. Just maybe keep some barf bags handy and the night lights on afterwards, k?

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