When you name your movie ARE WE NOT CATS, you’re basically warning your audience that shit’s going to get weird. And shit definitely gets weird. Very weird. And I’m usually down for that sort of thing provided it’s done right–but you can’t just be weird for the sake of being weird… It loses its pizzazz. Some of you might remember I’ve said before that I’m always interested in the “why” of things. So why are you so weird ARE WE NOT CATS?
Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t do quite enough to answer that question. And I say unfortunately because I want to like this movie far more than I do. It starts off with a dry wit that got me excited. It’s acted really well too. The main character Eli (played by Michael Patrick Nicholson) is convincing, and he comes off like a junky (although as far as I can tell he isn’t one). He also does a good job of feeling erratic and entirely misunderstood. His chemistry with Anya (played by Chelsea Lopez) is also a real highlight. When their worlds collide, they find comfort in commonalities and a tangible bond is formed. It’s odd and only makes sense in their world, but it works. Lopez comes off spritelike, but darker and is totally a scene-stealer. She’s one to watch.
“When you name your movie ARE WE NOT CATS, you’re basically warning your audience that shit’s going to get weird.”
I’m highlighting their relationship because ARE WE NOT CATS is a romance before anything else, and that part of the film is done very well. The nervous excitement of meeting someone new is a universal experience, and ARE WE NOT CATS nails that feeling perfectly. But what of the more horror related aspects? That’s more of a mixed bag. There isn’t anything scary here. Disturbing? Sure. But scary? Not really. There’s a certain amount of discomfort to the whole hair eating aspect which usually pulls the camera in real tight for maximum discomfort. I don’t cringe much when I watch movies, but ARE WE NOT CATS made me cringe every time some hair was yanked.
My biggest gripe with ARE WE NOT CATS is its plot. Or lack thereof. I feel like I say this far too often, but I don’t mind a slow film. I don’t mind if a story meanders, but it has to get somewhere eventually. Weirdo Eli meets a creepy girl, and that’s pretty much all that happens. Sure there’s the hair eating stuff which I won’t get into, but even that feels like it’s little more than a footnote until the end. The real action is the budding romance, and while it’s believable and satisfying, it doesn’t carry the film far enough.
I usually go into my reviews as blind as possible. I won’t even watch a trailer if I can help it–I don’t want to be influenced. So as I’m watching ARE WE NOT CATS, I’m getting a body horror vibe, and that’s intentional I think. It sure has the slow build of one. But whereas a typical body horror movie will ramp up the gross factor, ARE WE NOT CATS is satisfied with what it’s showing us in the trailer. I kept waiting for the movie to kick into gear, and it never really does. Halfway through the film we’re waiting for the movie to… movie. And unfortunately, it never does.
“I kept waiting for the movie to kick into gear, and it never really does.”
ARE WE NOT CATS has potential, but it’s never met. It sets you up to watch Eli’s life spiral wildly out of control, but it catches him too soon, and we’re aren’t given the satisfaction of seeing his true darkness emerge. I try not to fault a film for not doing enough. Enough is subjective and sometimes that’s not the director’s intention, but what I can’t let go of is how long I was waiting for this movie to do anything at all. With a 78 minute run-time, ARE WE NOT CATS feels like it would have made a far greater short film. For that reason alone, I can’t recommend this one to most.
ARE WE NOT CATS is out in theaters February 23rd