Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Short Film: The Cat with Hands (Great Britain, 2001)

"Last night as I slumbered I had a strange dream, one that seemed to bring distant friends near. I dreamt of the faces of people I loved, and I awoke with an 'eart full of cheer."
Old Man (Livy Armstrong) 
The apocryphal tale told behind this roughly 3.5-minute long jewel of a horror short is that the concept came from a recurring nightmare of the director's sister when she was young. (One can only assume that she must have had an extremely traumatic experience involving a cat as a child.) This surreally unsettling little film has enough nightmarish qualities about it, however, that it is easy to accept that tale as fact: from beginning to end, The Cat with Hands is a beautifully filmed and deeply atmospheric exercise in dream logic and dread that goes exactly where it should.  
But then, the short films of Robert Morgan (born 1974), the director and writer of The Cat with Hands, a man who usually works with stop motion in his projects, tend in general to wallow deeply in the unsettling nether-regions of the world of nightmares — see, for example, his recent short Belial's Dream (2017 / full short), a short made as an extra on a DVD re-release of Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case (1982), Morgan's relatively recent Channel X Cartoon Show (2020 / full short), or even his most renowned short, Bobby Yeah (2011 / full film) — all of which, possibly, are as worthy as The Cat with Hands of being chosen a wasted life's Short Film of the Month.
In The Cat with Hands, Morgan merges stop motion with live action to create a dark, Dickensian reality in which an older man (Livy Armstrong of Soho Square [2000 / trailer] and Cash & Curry [2008 / trailer]) with poetic penchant for telling stories is suddenly confronted by an inanely terrifying reality. (Do you really know who that person is with whom you are?) 
Set in a yesterday-like world dark and dreary and all off kilter, the setting and the events past and present have an air of dreadful unreality to them; the filmic world, however, nevertheless offers enough of a verisimilitude of yesteryear location to successfully ground the somewhat hallucinatory atmosphere enough that the culminating and effective shock remains as horrific as it is oddly repulsive. 
One hopes that Mr Morgan will one day try his hand at a feature film. His vision is a unique one.  
Robert Morgan's
The Cat with Hands:

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