31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 16: Be My Cat: A Film for Anne [2015]

Alexandra Stroe, Florentina Hariton, and Sonia Teodoriu in Be My Cat: A Film for Anne (2015)

The world’s first Romanian found-footage horror movie (and entirely in English), Be My Cat: A Film For Anne is a hard movie to find. I’d first heard of it pre-release, and then nothing ever seemed to come of it. I found it listed on Amazon Prime, but all I got was ‘this title is not available’ for no reason. Given that I also knew nothing of its director/star/editor/everything Adrian Tofei, this just added to the film’s overarching, morbid mystique.

I will say that this more than lives up to the WTFerry garnered by initial buzz. Even if you don’t believe me, this is likely to be one of the most unique horror movies you’ll ever have seen – regardless of (but perhaps bolstered by) its country of origin.

The events depicted on screen follow, well, an unnamed Romanian aspiring filmmaker, who is making a video in an effort to convince actress Anne Hathaway to star in a movie he will call ‘Be My Cat’. This is, as he explains, through a genuine smile of teeth so decaying he repeatedly has to suck on them, because he ‘loves girls and cats’ and doesn’t like boys or dogs. And he thinks Anne Hathaway is the greatest actress in history.

He has convinced (re: paid) three unknown Romanian actresses, each of whom bear an increasingly non-resemblance to Hathaway, to act dummy scenes in his movie in order for him to show the real Hathaway what his filmmaking process will be like.

As you might expect, things don’t go according to plan, but I shan’t spoil it as I firmly believe it’s best to go into this blind. If you actually manage to get a copy of this, you’re already making an elusive foray into the uncharted bizarre, so you might as well retain the mystery and just watch how things fold unawares. I will say, though, that the line between humour and horror thins markedly by the film’s final act, and there are moments in which you’re certain you should feel bad for laughing.

Much of this is due to the film’s format – as ‘found footage’, it’s as stable as most steadicams, but retains the intimacy of a home movie. Or, rather, a snuff film. That alone has enough potential to unnerve the steadiest of stomachs, but coupled with the protagonist’s infectious (and infected) smile and Eastern-bloc-optimism, this steadily, insidiously becomes a deeply unsettling yet blackly deadpan descent into horror.

And it all just becomes a little too real at times, especially if you’ve ever met any aspiring filmmaker ever, and especially especially if they’re male and you’re female (there’s a scene that’s essentially real-life Photoshop concerning an actress whom our lead flatly proclaims to be ‘too fat’). Yet, the humour remains entrenched, to simultaneously distract and horrify with equal, effective measure.

Credit for almost all of this largely goes to lead actor Tofei who, aside from offering his creepily compelling screen presence, also directed, wrote, produced, photographed, edited, cast, production-managed, set-designed, special-effects-managed and everything-else-d the whole thing. The sound mixing, thankfully not faithful to the typical tinny muffledness of other found-footage, keeps the proceedings just polished enough to keep you from fully believing that this is real-life snuff (though much distortion from filming outside is kept in). There are also simple but effective touches in which Tofei uses his production limitations to full advantage, such as using rush-hour traffic as a soundtrack for tension, or lampshading the use of syrup and stage blood as ‘fake’ (while clearly actually using it). It’s no surprise that he is actually classically trained.

By the end, you’ve wondered just…what in the hell you’ve seen. And, like the time I finished reading Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, I was eager to inflict this near-masterpiece on its next unsuspecting victim.

Score: 🎃🎃🎃🎃

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