The best thing about having your film making the festival rounds is that you get to see the occasional fresh and exciting piece of genre cinema. That happened to me (and fellow Mondo scribe Matt Vaughan) last week. We were at Sydney’s A Night of Horror International Film Festival for a screening of our feature Cat Sick Blues (aka the reason why Mondo Exploito has been somewhat sporadic and bare in its postings the past year or so) where we met Romanian filmmaker and actor Adrian Tofei. Tofei had just screened his found footage horror flick Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, which ended up taking the award for Best Film at the festival. I’m hoping you didn’t stop reading when you read “found footage”. Yes, I instantly shudder at those words, but stick with this, because this is a film that totally transcends the trappings of the sub-genre to create a truly unique experience that I assume (and hope) will be talked about for years to come.
BE MY CAT: A FILM FOR ANNE
Romania, 2015, Adrian Tofei
Many films that take on the found footage approach do it with little reason other than it is a cheap and quick way to create thrills and some kind of realism. The realism rarely works and the found footage genre has mostly become a shaky mess of irritating jump-scares and hysterical screams. There are, however, exceptions to the rule, and Be My Cat most certainly falls into that camp.
The found footage aspect of Be My Cat is not only integral to its characters and story, it’s also pulled off with an unnerving reality. After watching this, I legitimately had to pay a visit to IMDB to ensure that I wasn’t watching the mad and real ramblings of a murderous, Anne-Hathaway-obsessed Romanian. It’s not that Be My Cat is particularly violent or filled with effects (it’s not), but its scenes of abduction and terror is horrifyingly genuine. Seeing the actresses posing for premiere photos eased my nerves.
Be My Cat‘s central character is fascinating. The concept sounds outrageous, but director-and-star Tofei plays his alter-ego with such conviction and passion that it’s impossible not to get swept away in his babbling, confused plans to woo Anne Hathaway. Like any great director, Adrian, the character, is a man obsessed and seems to know exactly what he wants, no matter how strange things get.
Tofei’s performance is incredible. He swings from jovial goof to unsettling sicko — at once terrifying and oddly charming. There were moments where he had me laughing hard, other times he is so awkward and twisted I felt like I needed to look away from the screen. It’s not only Tofei who’s fantastic, his three victims are also wonderful. Sonia Teodoriu, Florentina Hariton and Alexandra Stroe are all shockingly good and there is not one false moment in their screen time. Stroe, in particular, is excellent in a tense and uncomfortably funny confrontation with Tofei.
With its rather gruesome poster, one would be forgiven in thinking Be My Cat is going to be an August Underground-esque bloodbath. It’s really not. Tofei refrains from showing us too much, which works to its favour in retaining its reality. Its few scenes of non-bloodied violence are a gut-churning.
I’m not sure when Be My Cat will become available to buy (follow it on Facebook for those updates), but, in the meantime, if you happen to see it in a festival lineup near you, do not miss it. This is low-budget horror cinema at its best. Complex performances, a compelling central character, and an utterly demented plot, Be My Cat is one of the most exciting films to rear its ugly head in 2015.