Here’s the deal:
Monsters come in many forms. From vampires to aliens to clowns to amorphous blobs to giant rabbits, horror films have featured just about every creature imaginable slicing and/or dicing teenagers and others.
And since horror films have been made for over a century, and every year there are more horror films released than possibly any other genre, it becomes exponentially difficult to shock or surprise a horror audience with a new creature. Horror fans are like meth heads, each year anxiously hoping the studios deliver up some Heisenberg-level crystal.
So if you’re a horror fan in the market for a new monster, do I have one for you: A stop-motion tree-baby.
Little Otik, or Otesánek, is a film by Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer, a noted surrealist, whose work has inspired the likes of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam. Švankmajer has created some interesting shorts like Darkness/Light/Darkness and Meat Love but Little Otik stands out as almost definitely his masterwork.
The film is an adaptation of a lesser-known fairy tale, and tells the story of a childless couple who experience problems with conceiving. The wife is particularly distraught by this and one day, while working in their yard, her husband finds a mangled tree root twisted in a vague humanoid shape which he presents to her as a half-joke. The wife immediately attaches herself to the child-like root, and begins dressing it up as a baby and spending all her time with it.
From here it gets even weirder. The tree-baby eventually comes to life in some beautiful and horrific stop-motion, and begins to feed. Surely inspired by a watching of Little Shop of Horrors, the tree starts Audrey II-ing it with relish, but sadly never breaks into any catchy R&B numbers.
It’s best to go into Little Otik without knowing much in terms of the visuals (which are stunning) or the development of the plot, but if you’d like a taste the trailer is available on YouTube.
This is probably one of the strangest films you’re likely to watch, but I’d argue it’s very satisfying in terms of execution and ambition. This is a movie that will stick to you (Stick! Get it?!…God, forgive me) and makes for great Halloween viewing. If you can track it down, Little Otik is well worth the watch.
But seriously, he’s got no strings to hold him down.