Animated Nightmares, manipulate Festival, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Robert Morgan (created Bobby Yeah, The Separation, The Cat With Hands, D For Deloused, Invocation); Jan Svankmajer (created Meat Love); Grace Nayoon Rhee (created Nightmares #1_Unicorn); Igor Kovalyov (created Hen, is Wife); Dominic Hailstone (created The Eel).
Running time

Robert Morgan presented a disturbing selection of animations that were literally made of the stuff of nightmares.

As with the 9pm slot at the Traverse all this week, animator Robert Morgan (winner of more than 40 international film awards) presented a selection of his own work alongside other animation shorts that have either inspired and influenced his own work, or are just simply films he loves. Tonight, he chose to show four animations by other artists, followed by five of his own.

Morgan has already cited Jan Svankmajer from the Czech Republic as an influence and the evening’s programme opened with his one-minute short, ‘Meat Love’, about a brief romance between two pieces of steak – the clue really was in the title. This was a light-hearted starting point that really stood outside the title of ‘Animated Nightmares’ that succinctly encapsulated the tone of everything that followed.

The power of a peculiar two-minute nightmare of rabbits and unicorns by Grace Nayoon Rhee and an eel breaking out of his tank to unrelenting, throbbing rock music by Dominic Hailstone, was somewhat diminished when sat alongside Russian animator Igor Kovalyov’s Hen, His Wife. Whatever it might be about – and it is, as always, up to one to make up one’s own mind – this carried an alluring mix of playful visual imagery with intriguing philosophical depths and brought an overall sense of the queasy and uneasy that will appeal to animation lovers the world over.

BAFTA-nominated Bobby Yeah opened tonight’s programme of Morgan’s own films. Freakish and bizarre, a murderous rabbit in grimy thermals with greasy pustules, boils and sores is both aggressor and victim in this gruesome, disjointed adventure. In The Separation, the story of conjoined twins is imbued with a disturbing blend of violence and tenderness and in D For Deloused, based on a nightmare from his childhood, Morgan perhaps exceeded his brief of making it ‘weird and gross’.

Autobiography is a strong feature of Morgan’s work and The Cat With Hands, he says, was based on a recurring nightmare his sister had during her pre-teenage years. Made for Channel 4 back in 2001, this four-minute piece had the flavour of a Hammer House of Horror movie and the delicious taste of the unnatural and other-worldly. The final animation, Invocation, was a tongue-in-cheek horror about the dangers of stop motion animation, where the animated objects turn the tables on the unsuspecting animator with sinister results.

This selection was not for the squeamish or fainthearted. But despite the nauseating, foul and repellent nature of much of what was shown this evening, it actually provided a lot of laughs – even if some of it was of the nervous variety. There is, after all, a bit of a thrill in feeling compelled to watch while hiding behind the proverbial sofa.