Francis, a tomcat, moves to a new neighborhood with his owner, and quickly gets involved in a series of cat murders that’s been going on for some time. He meets a local cat named Bluebeard, who shows Francis one of the recent victims. Bluebeard is convinced that “can-openers” (cat slang for “humans”) are behind these murders, but Francis disagrees and takes it upon himself to investigate this further. As he delves further into the mystery, Francis comes upon more mutilated cat corpses, a cat suicide club, a blind feline, and old VHS tapes featuring brutal experimentation performed on cats by crazy scientists. Francis tries to put all the pieces together in order to solve the mystery and find the culprit, while also suffering from terrifying nightmares.
Horror/thriller movies come in all forms, and animation is absolutely no exception. While some animated thrillers have become more and more known over the years (especially some anime classics like for example Perfect Blue) there are others that have been kept more obscured. So when opening the Animated Horror section here on Horror Ghouls, we thought it would be fun to start with a feature we expect few of you have heard of before: the German neo-noir cat thriller Felidae!
Now, don’t let Felidae’s cover fool you, this is absolutely no film for kids. While animated movies have never really been something that was supposed to only be aimed for kids, and have often targeted an adult audience, it’s a very common belief among a lot of people to believe that “cartoons are for children” (although those people are very, very wrong…but there are people out there who believe “Disney” is a synonym for “animation“, so what can you do). If a parent unwittingly brought this one home for their children to watch under the presumption it would be a kid flick, I hope the majority of them were smart enough to switch it off as soon as the first murder appears on the screen (which is pretty early in the movie). If not…well, then those kids ended up watching an animated film with nightmarish dream sequences featuring mutilated dead cats on puppet strings, mutilated cat corpses, horrible experiments done on cats, and scenes with Kama Sutra pictures on the walls. Oh, and a somewhat cheesy sex scene, of course. Much of the film’s murder plot would probably not be easily comprehended by children anyway…I doubt many 7-year olds would understand the film’s references to acts committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, for example. Felidae is purely intended for adults.
Felidae was directed by Michael Schaack, and based on a novel by the same name written by Akif Pirinçci. This animated feature from 1994 has pretty decent animation, and especially the “puppetmaster” nightmare scene is quite awesome with its stylish animation (which appears a bit different from the rest of the film, and thus makes it stand out). There are a lot of scenes that are beautiful to watch, with atmospheric painted backgrounds. The character design is…interesting, in some places. While you have the protagonist Francis, a more natural-looking cat with realistic movements, you have some characters that are very stylized. Like one of the “bad guys”, Kong, and his two neutered henchmen. Still, the stylization of the characters doesn’t actually distract from the rather dark and realistic tone of the film.
The movie follows a typical noir detective formula, and the mystery behind the murders is a bit more complex than what you might be led to believe from the start, with references to eugenics and racial purity. At the time Felidae was made, it was the most expensive animated feature produced in Germany, costing 10 million marks (approx. 5 million dollars). It was mainly animated by TFC Trickcompany in Hamburg, but they also outsourced some of the animation to 10 different studios, from London to Seoul. While it did get an English version, it never got any wide release in neither the US or UK, but the English version was included on the German and French DVD releases.
Now, if you want to check this one out it’s almost impossible to get on DVD anywhere (except maybe a used one on eBay, which is how we got it actually) and it doesn’t appear to be on any streaming sites. So your best chance here is probably YouTube. The official trailer for this movie doesn’t include any of the violent scenes, so it has actually been classified as “YouTube Kids”. Probably just because it’s animated. So regarding that incorrect “all cartoons are for kids” belief many people seem to have, I simply rest my case…
Director: Michael Schaack
Country & year: Germany | Denmark, 1994
Voice actors: Ulrich Tukur, Mario Adorf, Helge Schneider, Wolfgang Hess, Gerhard Garbers, Ulrich Wildgruber, Mona Seefried, Manfred Steffen, Uwe Ochsenknecht, Michaela Amler, Christian Schneller, Tobias Lelle, Frank Röth, Alexandra Mink