As someone who watches horror on a daily basis, I can stomach a lot. I don’t get grossed out with the same things as the typical human being would. Hell, I’m a huge fan of the Italian cannibal movies that were popular in the late 70s, early 80s. I tend to smile in the absurdity of gore gags and sometimes even laugh out loud at inappropriate moments. I learned while watching ARE WE NOT CATS, that hair eating is one of those things that makes me gag. While I’ve seen stuff like this on addiction and weird habit docuseries that love to exploit on cable television, this movie had some moments that almost made me pull my own hair out.
The correct terminology is trichophagia, the compulsive eating of hair associated with hair pulling. Anya (Chelsea Lopez) is a hardcore addict when it comes to the disorder. She sports a vibrant pink wig, giving her an awesome 80s punk vibe. She meets our lead Eli (Michael Patrick Nicholson) who is also into it, but nowhere near as extreme. His is more nibbling on his beard (which okay, maybe I’ve done before when it gets crazy long).
Eli starts off our story with everything going wrong right away: he loses his job, home, and gets dumped in just the first few minutes. It’s apparent that what we are about to watch is some kind of transition that could possibly turn for the worst as we all react differently during hard times. While it is initally a lot to take in, it’s quite relatable as most are familiar with the phrase “when it rains, it pours.” He gets a gig doing delivery jobs and that’s how he meets Anya and her boyfriend, Kyle (Michael Godere). These two are party heavy kids who embrace the YOLO motto and seduce Eli into it, even if he comes off as more of an introvert than anyone else in the movie.
Eli becomes attracted to Anya, maybe it’s the fact that there’s someone else in the world who is just as fucked up. That sense of belonging is strong in ARE WE NOT CATS and I can totally see this becoming a cult classic that finds its audience in the unlikeliest of places. Their friendship escalates in the second half as the audience gets to witness just how extreme the disorder can get and there’s no shying away from it visually. This is based on a short film with the same cast and I’m hopeful that it shows up as an extra on a future home video release as I have yet to see it. Commentaries would be interesting as this feels personal, almost autobiographical even if I don’t know much about the brains behind the scenes.
ARE WE NOT CATS is an unconventional love story for outcasts and weirdos, the freaks who can’t find their place. It starts off almost as cute, dare I say, but escalates into possibly fatal territory. No spoilers, but let’s just say the characters find themselves dealing with the consequences of their compulsive habits and it’s pretty graphic with some cringe worthy imagery. The movie is less than 80 minutes but manages to create a lucid dream of unhealthy love that some of us crave. Like people in the real world, characters in ARE WE NOT CATS sometimes enable bad behavior at a cost just so they won’t be left alone. It feels almost like a character study into absurd human behavior and what love can drive us to do, but whether you like it or not, you can’t dust this movie off easily.
ARE WE NOT CATS arrives on VOD platforms February 27th and will arrive on DVD March 13th