This is the first in what I'm hoping to be a series of articles I'll write every once in awhile in which I present to you a film nobody has ever heard of. And I'm not talking about cult favorites or movies you might have heard mentioned or referenced to in something else. I'm talking about the kind of movies you'd have to hear about second hand and search the shadowy corners of the internet to find out about. This is the kind of stuff that's not just badly made or strangely unsettling, we're talking about some of the most bonkers work of cinema you can find. Today, that film is an animated horror film straight from Germany called " Felidae."
Before I get into it, I should probably warn the animal lovers out there that the movie we're dissecting is incredibly violent and showcases some pretty brutal unkindness to cartoon cats. Even I was a bit disturbed by this movie and I thought that the torture segment of 2006's "Casino Royale" wasn't genital smashing enough. I'm not going to show you anything explicit, nor am I going to link to any scenes though you could easily find the movie online if you wanted to. But just to let you know, the movie I'm going to be talking about isn't pretty and it's especially not pretty if animated violence against cats upsets you.
So "Felidae" is an animated horror-noir film from 1994. Highlights to the word “animated” which might give you the impression that this a horror film intended for children. But no, it's far from child appropriate. Western Animation was never intended to be youth-oriented. In fact, some of the earliest works of animation were full of innuendos and adult centered-humor. Like this early short where Felix the Cat knocks up a female cat and promptly runs off to drown himself with a water pump. It wasn't until Walt Disney entered the picture that we see a shift from mature content to more child-friendly material. Even before the Simpsons entered the scene there were efforts to bring animation back to a more mature audience with animators like Ralph Bakshi making feature-length cartoons like "Fritz the Cat" - the first ever animated film to receive an X rating for its graphic sexual content and violence. Even beloved characters like Mickey Mouse was inspired by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, whose social and political satire struck with adult audiences. Just check out this cartoon where Betty Boop meets a ghost walrus who sings a Cab Calloway song about drugs.
So while it's unusual to see an animated movie that is not only for an adult audience but also a horror film, keep in mind that this was Germany in 1994 when the "Simpsons" were nearing the height of their popularity and for countries outside the US animation wasn't strictly for kids. So what is "Felidae" about?
Talking cats. "Felidae" is about talking cats. Not anthropomorphic talking cats who walk on two legs and wear clothes, "Felidae" is about ordinary cats you might own as a pet or see on the street. The opening narration by the primary talking cat, Francis, let's us know that despite his fluffy adorable appearance this story “isn't pretty.” By the looks of the grisly murder scene we see at the beginning of the film, he determines in a very Humphrey Bogart-like fashion that one talking cat is murdering other talking cats. Within the first six minutes, we've already seen these talking cats swear casually whilst conversing over a dead cat with its throat slit.
Bringing this movie back up reminds me at how ugly these cats are.
This one here is Bluebeard and I don't know what inbred pairing this cat came out of that left him with fur that colored like spoiled grape jelly. At one point, he pees on someone's porch and says, "Bluebeard was here." This is the kind of movie we're dealing with.
You'll notice that at lot of the character designs are lazily similar and it's easy to get certain characters confused. The animation also tends to jump from well done to Saturday Morning Cartoon levels of awful. Apparently, the animation was done by various animation studios and it really shows where the budget got tight. In the same year this was released we had the Lion King which is still awe-inspiring today with its colors and smooth animation. Another thing to keep in mind is that save for Bollywood, movies from other countries don't have the ridiculous multi-million dollar budgets we have in the US nor do they have the latest of equipment to use. This isn't Disney, and boy does it show.
So anyways, Felidae acts as detective to find out where these dead cats are coming from. Ninety percent of the clues are things that come out of nowhere or he has a prophetic dream about it. No, it isn't explained either. He has nightmares detailing the backstory of the killer and then just sort of goes with it. He has a dream about being captive by a creepy scientist in a lab and then comes to the conclusion that the killer was a cat previously held captive by a creepy scientist. It's not in any way established that he has psychic capabilities, he just sort of finds clues in his dreams for no reason.
The movie was already getting really weird, but around the 15-minute mark when Francis finds a horrifying death cult of neighborhood cats electrocuting themselves to death upstairs in his own home do we really find ourselves in crazy town.
That cross-eyed one on the right says it all.
The murders become more and more grotesque and graphic as we're shown the aftermath of one cat finding her entire head separated from her body to another formerly pregnant cat having the contents of her belly ripped out. Like I said, it's not a pretty movie and that's not even counting all the disturbing Holocaust imagery thrown in if you weren't already psychologically warped.
The film has an overall theme of WW2 era eugenics and guided evolution with all the unfortunate implications that comes with. I'd say that it's overall message is that intellectualism comes at the expense of innocence and has two possible outcomes- atrocity and benevolence. The protagonist is intellectually superior to his peers but uses his knowledge to put an end to violence while the antagonist's Nazi-esque philosophy and use of manipulation acts as his foil. The film is based on a relatively popular series of novels, after all. You might think this film is thought provoking despite its blatant and numerous flaws.
And then there's the sex scene.
Francis wakes up to find a female cat he's never seen before and the two just sort of go at it the way cats do, complete with saxophone music and everything. It's the most jarring thing I've ever seen depicted in film before and if you've ever wanted to make someone as uncomfortable as they possibly can be you can just show them this one scene. It's not explicit, but unwelcome all the same. It's the voice actors I feel sorry for. Two people had to go into a recording studio and make cat copulation noises while still maintaining some semblance of character just to make this scene. And the version I saw was dubbed, so not only did the original German cast have to make vocal sounds for this scene but an English cast had to as well. Noir films and horror films like to use sex as a way to entice the audience to add an erotic undertone and create atmosphere or feelings of desire or loneliness that can further be used in the story. Whatever madman thought that a movie about grotesque talking cat violence needed a sex scene I have absolutely no idea what his thematic purpose was. I guess if you're going to make a rated R cat movie, you might as well go all the way and see what you can get away with. There is not enough brain bleach in the world.
And that is all I can tell you about "Felidae." The plot is nonsensical, the visual design is poor, the animation fluctuates from good to bad, and in the middle of it all is a cat sex scene that has no right to exist in this world. But it's also the only western animated horror film I can find and it's actually disturbing in a terrifying way. Despite its general awfulness, I have an eerie fondness for it. You can find the full movie in English on youtube because there isn't a single person on this earth who cares enough about the movie to file a copyright claim against it. If you thought that "Tom and Jerry" needed less "Jerry" and more gore, give it a watch.
But remember that you can never unsee it if you dare.