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Familiarly, a horror movie premise this conceit has, which is that of a tortured artist who is socially maladjusted and whose obsessive striving for his/her art leads him/her into madness with the most brutal events ranging from beatnik sculptors (Roger Corman’s classic “A Bucket of Blood” where Dick Miller kills people and puts them in clay) to ballet (“Black Swan”) to hair styling (“The Stylist”). In the debut feature by Robert Morgan titled Stopmotion, the medium, being the painstaking and time-consuming process of stop-motion animation may be odd but its resulting film is undeniably gory yet ultimately boring walk through genre tropes. This becomes even more aggravating because Aisling Fransciosi’s performance at the center of it all was so good that one wished that every other part of this movie had tried as hard as she did.

She plays Ella Blake, a young girl who currently is using her obvious expertise in Stopmotion animation to support her mother (Stella Gonet), an arthritic mastermind who can no longer manipulate dolls so that she can complete what will be her last film. So far from what we see this does not look like a happy collaboration – mom is a demanding boss who emotionally blackmails her daughter just as she used to do with her characters – although whilst Ella wants out to create her own stuff, she does not have any ideas about them. Following tragedy striking down on her Ella moves into an empty apartment with Tom (Tom York), her devoted boyfriend for purposes of completing mother’s film before going solo in life.

But things change when an unknown little girl (Caoilinn Springall) comes along and tells Ella that the project she has at hand is boring suggesting instead to make up one about a girl who gets lost while walking in woods and chased by some evil being known only as Ash Man. Soon enough, even materials for making characters come into question, as the girl suggests to Ella that she should think about using something like raw meat or just animals which are already dead to make it more real. In her increasingly nightmarish project, the distinctions between life and art start to blur with Ella hallucinating at some point that it is actually she who is being chased by Ash Man. Thus in one such instance during performance, a character states “great artists always put themselves into their work” and I am just going to say that Ella takes this sentiment literally in the most disgusting way possible.

Morgan himself is a stop-motion animator, not surprisingly. His Horror Community acclaimed his short films, and the stop-motion sections seen here indeed carry with them some sort of fascination; they are able to attract one’s eyes while still causing stomach upheaval particularly as things continue. Unfortunately though, what Morgan and his co-writer Robin King have come up with for the narrative tissue that zigzags amidst these moments involves nothing more than another re-shaping of familiar terrain for messed-up artists with an extra serving of “Repulsion” being put into the mix for good measure. This film follows an artist as she gradually loses her mind and finds it difficult to distinguish between illusion and reality; sadly though, there is nothing new about this story – even the introduction of nameless girl is so obvious that people become fed up – and by the time it finally reaches its shocking end most viewers will hardly be surprised or horrified. Ella hardly seems to matter as a character in this film either; after a point, it starts playing with her like her mom did, so that at some moment somebody says directly “You are a puppet caught up in their own strings.”

Even though the script does not feature much complexity through which audiences can relate to Ella and her problems just a bit, Franciosi’s performance does make us care– if only for some time. The Nightingale was released several years ago but took Franiciosi’s career into another level because she emotionally broke down in response to rape [in] The Nightingale movie where she acted courageously against her assaulter. However, last year she also appeared well inappropriately titled The Last Voyage of the Demeter. She comes across as another amazing personality aside from Ella who has yet again delivered a powerful act that cannot be undermined even by traditional scriptwriting methods standing in its way towards becoming one of those rare movies whose plot would feel captivating & compassionate were it not for the hands that held it. Perhaps she did it better than the writers of the film.

“Stopmotion” definitely aims to be a wild, mind-bending dive into the heart of madness; however, in reality, “Stopmotion” is just an assemblage of barf bag visuals and overused tropes occasionally brightened by impressive animation and powerful acting from Franciosi. Morgan has certainly created some eerie images but his greatest challenge seems to lie in deciding how these images can be utilized to develop a full-featured storyline. While fans of gore and stop-motion may find this approach amusing, anyone seeking for what could have been either terrifying or tragic yet alternately touching story will most likely feel deceived.

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