Stopmotion: An uncanny & terrifying take on creativity

STOPMOTION - Still 1 - Courtesy IFC
STOPMOTION - Still 1 - Courtesy IFC /

Plenty of films address the creative process. Adaptation, Paterson, and The Wonder Boys are some of my favorites. In terms of horror, The Shining, Velvet Buzzsaw, the new Candyman, among others, also focus on creatives and their struggles to meet the muse. Yet, none of these films quite tackle the artistic process in such a chilling and horrifying manner as Stopmotion, from animator turned writer/director Robert Morgan. This film is pure nightmare fuel in all the best ways. Its creatures, which look like they escaped Dante's Inferno, will haunt your dreams long after the credits roll.

Horror fans will likely recognize the film's star, Aisling Franciosi, from Jennifer Kent's revenge thriller The Nightingale. Here, she plays Ella Blake. Ella can't quite escape her mom's shadow. Suzanne Blake (Stella Gonet) is a domineering presence who insists Ella work on a final stop-motion film with her and do all of the grunt work because arthritis has seized her hands. Yet, Ella wants to make her own films, instead of posing a cyclops-like figure over and over again until her mother is finally satisfied with the shots.

STOPMOTION – Still 4 /

From the start, Stopmotion shows just how painstaking this type of animation is, as viewers witness Ella gently adjust the cyclops over and over again and then take shot after shot until she gets it right, or, rather, until her mom is pleased. This film is very much a love letter to the laborious craft of bringing these chunks of clay to life.

Yet, for as much as Stopmotion is about the nature of the film's title, it's also about an artist's struggle to find her own voice. It's clear that Ella has her own vision and wants to make her own films, but she's stopped by her mother. However, when she meets an unnamed girl (Caoilinn Springall), all of that changes. The girl becomes a twisted muse of sorts, encouraging Ella to not only make her own films, but make them as dark as possible. This is when these chilling creatures come to life. Ella can't stop seeing them.

In short, Ella makes a film about a little girl running away in the woods from a hideous monster. Both the stop-motion girl and creature look uncanny and Ella makes them out of actual meat, among other bizarre renderings. Credit must go to Andy Biddle for the animation in this film. The more we see of these creatures, the scarier they become. Be it the monster's menacing face or the girl's black eyes and straw-like hair, you just won't be able to shake some of these images after seeing them.

STOPMOTION – Still 3 - Courtesy IFC /

It doesn't take long for Stopmotion to transform into a movie about the art consuming the artist. That's really the theme that underlies this film. Viewers can interpet the unnamed girl however they want, as there are no direct answers regarding her. Is she Ella's muse? Does she actually live in Ella's apartment? Was she Ella as a child, conjuring her own visions against her mother's stardom as an animator, or is there something more sinister going on regarding the monster and the little girl trying to escape him in the woods? The film is too ambiguous to offer a solid answer on the unnamed girl's role. Yes, that may frustrate some viewers.

Overall, Stopmotion is likely to be one of 2024's most memorable horror films. It's also one of the freshest and creepiest takes we've had on the creative process in a while. This feature feels like a 90-minute waking nightmare, especially the more that the art devours the artist.

Stopmotion is currently available on VOD and will stream on Shudder in May.

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