Move over Five Nights at Freddy’s, stop motion animation is the next big thing in horror not animatronics, and Stopmotion director Robert Morgan knows exactly why

(Image credit: IFC Films)

Horror movies nowadays take advantage of all different art forms and objects to create scares such as AI in Late Night with the Devil, extreme prosthetics in Barbarian, and the use of animatronics in Five Nights at Freddy’s. But perhaps the most underrated form of art and craft used in horror movies has to be stop motion animation, and director Robert Morgan knows exactly what makes it so scary. 

 Warning, this article contains spoilers for Stopmotion. 

"There's an uncanniness to it," Morgan tells GamesRadar+ in an exclusive interview. "Especially if you design the puppets in such a way, you've got this push and pull between something that feels familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, which is really the definition of uncanniness."

Stop motion is by no means a new thing in cinema, in fact, classic stop motion animation movies such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline have even been nominated for Academy Awards. However using stop motion as a tool in the horror genre is not taken advantage of enough, which is surprising considering how naturally chilling the art form is. 

"It's not so creepy in Wallace and Gromit land," Morgan says, "but if you make the puppet feel like it's a bit too close to reality, you have something that feels familiar. You can't put your finger on it, but it creates this weird kind of dissonance in your brain where you're attracted to it, but you're repulsed by it at the same time."

In comes Morgan’s first feature film, Stopmotion. Blending stop motion animation and live-action filmmaking, the movie stars The Nightingale’s Aisling Franciosi as up-and-coming stop motion artist Ella Blake who struggles to hold her sanity together when she finally has artistic freedom after losing her overbearing yet talented mother. But when Ella embarks on her own project, things take a turn for the worse as the characters in her film start to blend into her everyday life. 

The movie takes full advantage of the "uncanniness" of puppets by incorporating them into Ella’s life until we can’t differentiate what is real and what is not. But Morgan took this one step further by having Ella use raw meat and dead animals to make her dolls. In the end, she even used parts of her own and others flesh and tissue. But this wasn't all for shock value, as Morgan explains, "Animating something that's dead felt very natural to me within the context of the story. It sums up everything I love about what stop motion does, this kind of weird Frankenstein-esque thing of bringing things to life."

But the grossest part of the movie came in the form of live bugs, as Morgan recalls "I'm not a fan of maggots. I think they're very visually very effective, they immediately create a very strong reaction out of the audience. We did use some raw meat as well in there from the butchers, so the mix of raw meat and maggots is a bit but you know… you suffer for your art." And suffer he did, and at the end of the day, that is probably what makes stop motion animation stand out from other art forms in the horror genre. 

Stopmotion will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital on 1st July 2024. Can’t wait? The movie is available to stream right now on Shudder. For more, check out our list of the best horror movies on Shudder, or keep up with upcoming horror movies heading your way soon.  

Editorial Associate, GamesRadar+

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering TV and film for SFX and Total Film online. I have a Bachelors Degree in Media Production and Journalism and a Masters in Fashion Journalism from UAL. In the past I have written for local UK and US newspaper outlets such as the Portland Tribune and York Mix and worked in communications, before focusing on film and entertainment writing. I am a HUGE horror fan and in 2022 I created my very own single issue feminist horror magazine.