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stopmotion (film, 2023)

stopmotion (film review, 2023)

The concept of Stopmotion is certainly intriguing - following an animator descending into madness as she completes her late mother's stop motion film. Right away, we see promise in Aisling Franciosi's vulnerable yet determined performance as Ella Blake. Her mother, Suzanne, played coldly by Stella Gonet, is a legendary figure in their field that Ella lives in the shadow of.

Spoiler alert.

When Suzanne suffers a stroke, Ella takes it upon herself to finish what her mother started. This personal drive to prove herself is relatable and makes Ella a sympathetic lead to follow into the depths of the story. I was hooked to see where her journey would take her.

That's where things get muddy. Ella is renting the empty apartment building to work, isolated from prying eyes, which sets an unsettling stage. But after meeting the strange neighbor child (little girl), played subtly creepy by Caoilinn Springall, the plot loses focus.

The little girl's insistence on changing the story and incorporating increasingly disturbing elements like using meat in the stop motion figures was an odd choice. It comes across as more try-hard than truly unnerving. There are hints the little girl represents Ella's demons, yet this metaphor is muddy.

For a film relying so heavily on its subtext and creeping psychological elements, more clarity was needed in the writing. Director Robert Morgan develops an intriguing atmosphere, but the characters get lost amid heavy-handed metaphors.

Despite this, I was still curious to see where Ella's unraveling would lead. But long stretches of the middle drag as we get a little payoff for the bizarre choices being made. The potential is there for social commentary, but it's lazily extracted.

Things pick up again in the intense and gruesome conclusion. Practical effects deserve praise for his unsettling creature and gore designs. The carnage had me grimacing, yet also pulled me back in.

If only the buildup was as compelling as the payoff. Even the finale leaves questions that undermine its impact - chiefly, how much was really happening versus in Ella's fractured mind?

Unlike the best psychological horror that sticks with me, Stopmotion doesn't offer rewatch value. The muddled storytelling scatters any deeper themes into obscurity.

On the technical side, cinematographer Leo Hinstin captures dimly lit, unsettling atmospheres. But even gorgeous framing can't save dull stretches. Sound design ratchets tension effectively, however.

Performances from Franciosi and supporting cast like Tom York are commendable. But strong actors can only do so much with a script grasping for profundity yet never quite achieving it.

So, in conclusion, Stopmotion was an okay watch for me - one I'll remember more for its uneven yet earnest attempt than a truly great cinematic experience. At its best, it draws you close; at its worst, it drags. For fans of lyrical psychological horror, it may resonate more.

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