Welcome to Animation Globe where Headstuff’s animation expert Joseph Learoyd analyses films of the form from around the world. This entry is on 1994 German slasher flick Felidae.
Not all animations are exclusively for children. Some are full of gruesome scenes, imagery that isn’t afraid to show viewers moments of true terror. Animal Farm, The Animals of Farthing Wood, Watership Down and The Plague Dogs, to name a few, all depict the horrors of the real world and don’t shy away from vicious deaths and adult themes. Felidae, a 1994 German animated mystery based on a 1984 novel of the same name, is one of these animations. In some ways, the film trumps each one of the former in the sheer gore depicted.
Felidae tells the tale of Francis, a cat, who upon arriving at his new home with his owner becomes aware of a string of vicious cat murders and takes it upon himself to solve the crimes. This film is by no means for children. From the murders alone, we see decapitated cats – felines with their throats cut open and disemboweled – likely to leave any unfortunate child whose parent thought Felidae would be suitable for them with nightmares.
That is without even mentioning the nightmares that our protagonist has throughout the narrative, each a deep dive into a creepy and disturbing visual danse macabre that never pulls punches. We see ferocious fights, scenes of horrific animal cruelty inflicted in testing facilities and character designs that are just plain disturbing. Also there’s cat sex. Why? We don’t know either, but it’s there.
So, to say that this movie is strange, would be an understatement. From a story perspective, it has a number of unusual moments that come out of nowhere, as well as plot holes. If the viewer can get past this, though, Felidae, is oddly enjoyable to watch. For one thing, it certainly has its own unique style – with its fluid animation enhancing the ominous vibes – and is far from boring. Basically, imagine The Aristocats evil twin and you have this piece of obscure animated horror.
The way the dream sequences were animated must be admired. As creepy as its story is, it’s really the highly detailed shots coupled with the frame transitions in Felidae that hammer home the dramatics that the film’s animators were trying to create. It is this, coupled with a menacing classical orchestral score, that helps audiences to become unnerved along with the protagonist.
The characters all have unusual quirks in their design. For instance, the antagonistic Kong comes off as not even a cat. Instead he’s akin to some large grotesque monster that has been created by demons and spat out from the depths of hell to act as a partial foil for our detective hero.
When we get to the main villain’s final reveal, it is clear what the baddie wants to do but why is still shrouded in uncertainty. In some ways, Felidae’s intention to shock through imagery overshadows its actual narrative, the area where film suffers the most.
However, the aesthetics are so strong that even with Felidae’s narrative issues, the film really is worth checking out for fans of adult animation. It feels unique and unlike more mainstream animations is not just a poor imitation hiding in another cartoon’s shadow. And as disturbing as it is, there is a charm to this German tale that manages to weave its way not just into our hearts but also into our nightmares.