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Stopmotion movie review & film summary (2024)

She plays Ella Blake, a young woman who is currently utilizing her undeniable skills in the field of stop-motion animation to assist her mother (Stella Gonet), a legend in the field whose crippling arthritis has left her unable to manipulate the figurines, in completing what is to be her final film. From what we see, this is not exactly a happy collaboration — Mom is a stern taskmaster who emotionally manipulates her daughter in the same way she once manipulated her characters — and while Ella yearns to break away and do her own projects, she has no real ideas as to what they might entail. When tragedy strikes, Ella, with the help of loyal boyfriend Tom (Tom York), relocates to a vacant apartment in order to finish her mother’s film and then strike out on her own for the first time in her life.

That all changes with the arrival of a mysterious little girl (Caoilinn Springall), who deems Ella’s current project boring and instead suggests a narrative about a young girl who is lost in the woods being stalked by a malevolent entity known only as the Ash Man. Before long, the girl is also suggesting that Ella rethink the materials used to bring the characters to life, leading her to use such things as raw steak and dead animals to create literal meat puppets. Inevitably, the line between life and art begins to blur in increasingly nightmarish ways as Ella becomes more and more consumed with her project, at one point hallucinating that it is she who is being pursued by the Ash Man. At one point in the proceedings, a character claims that “great artists always put themselves into their work” and I will just say that Ella certainly takes that statement to heart in the ickiest manner imaginable.

Not surprisingly, Morgan is himself a stop-motion animator whose short films have received acclaim in the horror community and the stop-motion sequences seen here do have a certain fascination, somehow coming across as both eye-catching and stomach-churning, especially as things progress. The problem is that the story that he and co-writer Robin King have concocted to string these moments together is little more than a retread of the usual unstable artist cliches with a heaping (and eventually heaving) helping of “Repulsion” thrown into the mix for good measure. For a film charting an artist as she descends into an increasingly unsettling existence in which she struggles to determine what is real and what isn’t, the beats are pretty familiar throughout — the presence of the mysterious unnamed girl is especially unsubtle — and by the time it finally arrives at its ghastly conclusion, few viewers will be particularly shocked or surprised. The film also doesn’t really seem to have much interest in Ella as a character — after a while, it begins to manipulate her as much as her mother did and the closest it gets to psychological exploration comes when someone flat-out remarks “You are a puppet caught up in their own strings.”

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