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ARE WE NOT CATS (2016)
Directed by Xander Robin
Written by Xander Robin
Starring Michael Patrick Nicholson, Chelsea Lopez, Michael Godere, Dean Holtermann, Charles Gould, Adeline Thery, Alice Frank, Tuffy Questell, Theodore Bouloukos, Carson Grant, Joe Buldo, Ernst Zorin, Marika Daciuk, Bill Weeden, Alex Goldberg
Find out more about this film here
Horror comes in all shapes, sizes, and styles of psychoses. Even though I feel I’ve seen pretty much every form of horror, I am constantly surprised at how the horror genre finds mew ways to creep me out and nauseate me. With a background in psychology, I know quite a bit about trichophagia and when I explain what it is, you’re going to either be grossed out or intrigued or both. Trichophagia is an irrational appetite for hair, usually one’s own hair. And while ARE WE NOT CATS is a film about two troubled souls finding a place together in this weird, wild world, it is also about the body horror of trichophagia and it’s not for the squeamish.
Michael Patrick Nicholson plays hapless schlub Eli, who loses his girlfriend, home, and job all in one day. Seeing to start a new life, he takes a new job and tries to meet new friends in the next town over. Much like Eli, these twenty-somethings like to party, do drugs, and simply hang out, dancing and listening to music. It is during one of these instances, Eli meets Anya (Chelsea Lopez) a plucky young girl who immediately sparks Eli’s interest. Though she is dating one of his co-workers, Eli pursues Anya and ends up spending the night with her. This is when things get weird. See Eli has a nervous habit of picking away at his beard and eating the hair, leaving large patches of baldness. He’s never met anyone else who does this until he meets Anya, who has picked away almost all of the hair hidden under her wig. Connecting through their psychosis, Eli realizes that Anya’s disorder is much more serious than he thinks.
If you can get past the grossness of eating hair, you’ll actually find that this is a damn charming film. There are moments of real humanity here as Eli and Anya connect. You feel for Eli, who despite his passivity, is a pretty likable guy. Nicholson has a way about him that makes you feel for his dilemma or in this case, multiple dilemmas. Lopez makes Anya equally entrancing and it is easy to understand why Eli falls for her. She lights up a room with her vitality, yet still has room to show vulnerability when the wig comes off.
While this isn’t an out and out horror film, it does involve serious body horror as, believe it or not, eating hair is not a good thing to do. There are dire consequences from the digestion of so much hair and in a grueling and gruesome scene, we see exactly what it does to one’s body in graphic and harrowing detail. This makes up the climax of the film and while the intensity of this scene comes from all of the blood and hair, it is multiplied because we have gotten to know these two flawed individuals and want their dysfunctional relationship to survive.
ARE WE NOT CATS, a title seemingly relating to the fact that cats ingest their own fur and barf them up in fur balls, is a trippy little film. Reminiscent of the mumblecore films of the early 2000’s, this film reflects a directionless lifestyle that may annoy some. But beneath the couch-surfing, devil may care life choices of the cast, there’s an engaging love story and one hell of a gross climax that makes ARE WE CATS one of those special kind of oddities that will strike a chord with the right type of demented viewer.
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