Old man: "You know, this is the place, don'tcha? Where it comes from. So they say. Story 'as it a boy came face to face with that animal. Right 'ere. Right where we're standin' now."

Short British horror film, released in 2001. A mixture of live-action and stop-motion animation, it was written, directed, and animated by Robert Morgan. Sylvie Bringas and Eyal Shaphyr were the producers, and Marcus Waterloo was the cinematographer. It starred Livy Armstrong as the old man, Daniel Hogwood-Kane as the young man, and Victoria Hayes as the boy. The film won the Newcomers Award at the Rushes Soho Shorts Festival in 2001, the Onda Curta Award at the Festival Internacional de Cinema do Porto in Portugal in 2002, and the audience award at the London Sci-Fi Film Festival in 2003. It can be viewed here, among other places.

"The Cat with Hands" is the creepiest, most unsettling film ever made. In a very short three minutes, it focuses on an old man telling his younger companion an old folk tale about a cat that has human hands in place of its front paws, and of the terrible, terrible things that the cat does.

"Like what, J-P?" you ask. "What are the terrible, terrible things that the cat with hands does?"

The film is less than four minutes long. I will not spoil it.

Morgan has said that he was inspired by recurring nightmares that his sister had when she was young, about a cat with hands that caused people to convulse. He changed the story up a bit, but the surreal, dreamlike quality of the film is true to its origins.

Morgan's animation is first-rate. If he'd tried to depict this story solely through live action, it wouldn't have worked at all. The special effects for the cat would've looked cheap and unconvincing. But animated, the cat works. It looks strange and not quite lifelike, but that's exactly how a cat in a nightmare should look. It's clear that Morgan is a skilled horrorist, and while I love his short work, I hope that someone is going to offer him some feature work soon, so we can see what he can do with more time and a bigger budget...

For all of Morgan's skill and artistry, the film would be a far different and less compelling work without Livy Armstrong. His voice is deep and gravelly, simultaneously musical and tuneless. And his screen presence is tremendous -- you can't take your eyes off him, and even without the cat, he has no difficulty making your skin crawl.

I have recommended this film to many people, always warning them that they'd find it very, very creepy. I got my share of doubting looks -- everyone is used to getting a film recommendation that doesn't live up to its promise. But so far, the people who have watched it have come back to me with wide eyes and whispered praise. They joke that they'll be more careful around wells and that they make their cat sleep outdoors now. Sometimes, the non-horror fans berate me for "making" them watch it. The horror fans smile when they talk about it, watch it over and over, and recommend it to their friends.

UPDATE: enth says, "It is popular in the video DJ community to use bits and pieces from this work -- I say this having realized I had already seen much of the movie while watching it just now." Astounding -- ya learn something new every day...

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