Stopmotion (2024)

In Theaters Today before it makes its way to VOD on March 15th and then the Shudder Streaming Service on May 31st.

There’s a scene in Robert Morgan’s “Stopmotion” where protagonist Ella is discussing with her mother, another animator, how she’s handling her puppets. Her mother corrects her in a menacing tone that she is the actual puppet. When it comes to art, the artist tends to submit themselves to a certain kind of madness that becomes a part of the process of creation and death. Robert Morgan’s horror thriller is a brilliant look in to the creative process and the often maddening process that can come with being an artist. In particular, Morgan focuses on the grueling task of stop motion animation and writes a film that’s both a love letter and dire warning to any artist that gives themselves over to the art form.

It’s bound to inspire much analysis from its audience.

Ella Blake, an aspiring stop-motion filmmaker’s overbearing mother, Suzanne can no longer continue her legendary stop-motion career due to crippling arthritis. Ella’s primary role is as Suzanne’s caretaker and co-creator on her last project before she passes. When Suzanne suffers a stroke and is hospitalized, she leaves Ella to her own devices as she decides whether to carry out her mother’s dying wish or start anew. Ella chooses the latter with the help of a curious child roaming around her new apartment complex who invades Ella’s daily routine with ideas on a terrifying new premise involving “The Ash Man.”

Director and animator Morgan’s wonderful stop motion compliments what is a classic descent in to pure utter madness with Aisling Franciosi offering yet another riveting performance. As Ella, Franciosi is a perfect picture of the artist tasked with the huge pressure of fulfilling her mother’s legacy. After she falls ill, Ella endeavors to complete her film, while also living up to her shadow, and also delivering something that is uniquely her own. “Stopmotion” is very much in the vein of gems like “The Shining” and “Suspiria” where the artist confronts their own personal demons in the process of building upon their own contribution to art.

With “Stopmotion” there isn’t so much a monster or a villain so much as there is an artist whose own worst enemy is her doubt, insecurity, and impostor syndrome. Robert Morgan conducts a tightly wound and quietly eerie horror film that digs in to the creative mind and turns the screws on a process that is in an of itself so awe inspiring that it can often tend to take on a life all its own. Morgan splices his own excellent stop motion animation to help punctuate the inherent madness and psychological unraveling of Ella and how her own creations begin to take on these grotesque fleshy hues as they evolve.

Morgan’s direction matched with the integrations of mediums is seamless and they’re complimented by the stark performances from the cast. Along with Franciosi, there’s also co-star Caoilinn Springall, an enigmatic neighbor who takes a vested interest in Ella’s craft. Once she begins to insinuate herself in to Ella’s animation project, Ella’s collaborator gradually begins to morph into her stalker. There’s so much playing with perception and symbolism about agency over our art, controlling our ideas, and the sheer isolation that can follow our desire to build and mold.

While the concept doesn’t exactly re-invent the wheel, “Stopmotion” really does end up evolving in to a truly riveting meditation of madness and the artist’s condition with top notch performances and direction all around.