It’s Cineray time, fiends! All right, if you are like me, the last year has been challenging. And if you are a lot like me, you have been watching a lot of horror movies to escape the stress of this year. Certainly, there have been times this year that have felt like life itself is the most fearsome thing in our lives. And that concept that life can sometimes be the monster that stalks us is the concept at the heart of today’s double feature of Fingers and Are We Not Cats.
First, let me clarify my point a bit more about life being a monster. Life is something we all experience, and while sometimes it can be excellent, there are times it is not. Sometimes it’s a series of terrible events. You lose your job; a relationship ends, you get assaulted or robbed, the list can be endless. The point is we all experience things in life, and usually, they scar us or change us in ways that we don’t know until later. Sometimes we find terrible ways to cope or develop bizarre phobias to counteract what we have been through. Some develop baseless resentments of others, eat strange objects, or even indulge in self-harm. And none of us are free of this monster that stalks us. Whether through events, the passage of time, or our destination or mistakes, life is the monster we must face daily. That concept is the focus of these two horror movies.
Fingers is an odd movie about how fear and chance can hinder us and lead to our redemptions. The story begins with Walter, a man being stalked by two masked assailants who are toying with him before they capture him. It then cuts to Amanda waking up to start her day of work. She stops at a donut shop to get a dozen on the way to work but immediately throws the whole box away outside the shop when she spots a birthmark on the hand of the clerk and then runs away in panic when she stops at a shop only to discover the clerk is a little person. Complications arise when Walter, now missing a pinky finger, is Amanda’s first meeting of the day. She freaks and demands her business fire him. Her boss refuses but insists she gets therapy. Meanwhile, the masked assailants keep coming to take more of Walter’s fingers, and we eventually receive the revelation that, although hired by someone to do this, lead man Talky considers this job a pleasure.
Fingers succeeds as a film because it is well made and is not afraid to be as odd as it needs to be. This movie is very well made. It’s not flashy or even distracting with its settings because it focuses itself on the characters. The acting is competent for the most part, but a few performances are excellent. Talky is played by Jeremy Gardner, who is quickly becoming a genre favorite after this film and performances in The Battery, Bliss, and After Midnight. He gives the character a real strange manic energy. The character enjoys his vicious job hurting people as much as he does, making the disconcerting masks he and his partner wear on the job and dotting on his dog. The character he plays is a weirdo with a dark side and should be easy to despise, but instead, he is compelling with Gardner’s performance. And although he is barely in the film, Micheal St. Michaels as Fox is great. There is just something about the way he performs that is awesome.
Are We Not Cats is the story of two damaged people finding love in recognizing that they both suffer from similar syndromes. The movie tells Eli’s story, a twenty-something-year-old man who loses his job, apartment, and girlfriend in one terrible day. His box truck becomes his home, as well as the only means for him to make money – doing odd jobs. To cope, Eli pulls out his hair and eats it. (Editor’s note – yum!)
Eli procures a delivery job that takes him upstate with Kyle. When they arrive, Kyle introduces him to his girlfriend Anya and Eli is smitten. She is odd, and Kyle has tired of Anya’s habit of eating hair, which he reveals as much to Eli when he removes his beanie and displays his nearly bald dome. Eli consuls Anya on his own proclivities but isn’t exactly prepared for her.
Are We Not Cats is a competent and well made indie film with a subject matter that may make some viewers queasy. The world these characters inhabit is rough and dirty. You can easily see how living in this environment would be punishing and hard. There are scenes shot in the snowy winter that make one honestly feel the cold radiating off the screen as the film plays. When Anya’s crazy apartment comes on screen, its colorful nature feels soothing by comparison to the stark reality. And although I did not have a problem with the hair-eating scenes, some viewers may have difficulty with them. One scene, in particular, is going to be downright punishing.
Maybe after these two movies, you will want to see more films that explore these concepts and want to take a deeper dive. For those looking for more movies, I would suggest the films of Gaspar Noe, Irreversible in particular, and Anatomy of Hell by Catherine Breillat. But a word of caution, these films get a lot harder to sit through. Anatomy of Hell is a great film, but it is dark and aggressively sexually explicit, with scenes that are said to be none-simulated sex. And Irreversible has a reputation that is well-earned as a problematic film. It is brutal, ugly, and nihilistic and filmed with Noe’s unusual camera techniques. But it is also damn good and not exploitive at all.
Life is hard, and as horror fans, it is often a source of comfort from its harshness. For one thing, the horror ends when the films end. For another, the monsters or killers the characters deal with are such that we will never have to experience in “real life.” But what perhaps makes these films hard is that life is something we confront daily, and whether we recognize it or not, we have all developed unhealthy ways to cope with it. Conveniently, both of these films are available on Shudder, or you can rent them from other streaming services but when you have the convenience of one place go with it.