Though it was released in 2015, Adrian Țofei’s Be My Cat: A Film for Anne sadly flew under my radar until quite recently. Often compared to Patrick Brice’s Creep series (which Țofei himself has addressed) given its jovial wickedness and animal(ish)-centric plotline, Be My Cat also features a murderous stalker’s perspective within a found footage format. Still, Țofei’s brand of horror feels like an entirely different…well, animal to me than Brice’s, one equally engrossing yet with fewer creature comforts and much sharper teeth. While Be My Cat is not the only film of its kind to employ laughter and joy as fear tactics—certainly, Creep does as well—Țofei’s unique take on hypermasculine violence makes it one of the most bizarre and horrifying films I’ve ever seen.
In a far-too-convincing mockumentary style, this indie chiller begins with lead character Adrian—eerily played by writer and director Adrian Țofei himself—introducing his film Be My Cat to the camera. Flagrant meta-ness aside, something feels immediately off about Adrian, though it’s difficult at first to pinpoint what. He wears a pleasant-enough grin, has a disarmingly nervous laugh, and is close with his mother, even sharing warm words with her before showing us photos from his childhood. While he is, perhaps, a bit Norman Batesy for my taste, had I not known Be My Cat was a horror film, I could have just as easily found him charming. It doesn’t take long, however, to discover a sinister shadow behind his smiling sweetness.
Within only minutes of his awkward introduction, Adrian confesses that his “film” Be My Cat is not a film at all. Rather, he explains through disquieting giggles, it’s an insidious ruse to persuade Anne Hathaway to collaborate with him. Adrian, who’s been smitten with the actress since he first observed her catsuit in The Dark Knight Rises, devolves into a vile schoolboy, glossing completely over her performance in the film and reducing her instead to her body and clothing. Rapidly and rabidly regressing, he locks eyes with us (the viewers) while directly addressing a very-not-there “Anne” throughout.
As the cameraman’s fanaticism continually grows, the fourth wall decays more and more. With its painful immersiveness and rising despair, the film is reminiscent, in ways, of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (both the 1997 version and 2007 shot-for-shot remake). Like Funny Games, Be My Cat is uncomfortable at best and sickening at worst, but it sure as hell ain’t funny. When Adrian brags about luring unsuspecting actresses to work with him, his smile broadens with a smugness similar to “Paul’s.” Though the Funny Games films are not found footage, they also revolve around smirking men turning worlds upside-down. Adrian, however, is very different from the sterile and preppy “Peter” and “Paul.” He’s grittier, more emotional, and higher-strung, and he’s in it for romance and fame rather than chaos alone. There is a definite order to his actions. He believes he can make Anne Hathaway an even bigger star than she already is, and he’ll do anything to get close to her. Additionally, he sees himself as right whereas the men in Funny Games know for a fact they are wrong. Adrian’s humanity may be thin, but he is human nonetheless.
In some ways, Be My Cat is a tense, creeping slow-burn, unraveling its layers as a newborn kitten would her yarn. Though in other ways, the film is jarring in how quickly scenes can go sour. When Adrian meets the first actress Sonya, he does so in broad daylight. He is friendly and helpful, even assisting with her bags. As the day makes way to afternoon, however, he becomes more aggressive, his mood appearing to coincide with the darkening sky. In fact, it is at night when his plan first comes to fruition.
After hours of taunting Sonya with unjust criticisms of her performance, Adrian convinces the rightfully-upset actress to perform another scene with him. In it, he will pretend to kidnap Sonya, holding pseudo-chloroform over her mouth while carrying her kicking and thrashing into his rental building. Of course, this is just another of his lies, and after successfully capturing the actress—his first victim—he rejoices and beams, once again raving to the camera and laughing hysterically. He feels as if he’s one step closer to meeting Anne and that his treacherous deeds are just elaborate gestures of love. Although Adrian certainly has humanity as is displayed from his various bursts of emotion, he seems to lack a heart. This is a disturbing detail that could not be used to describe someone like Peachfuzz from Creep. The cameraman’s self-absorbed romanticism is one of the elements of Be My Cat that, for me, makes it as disturbingly resonant as it is.
Without giving too much more away, I’ll say that the film only goes on to become much more brutal. As Adrian’s interactions with the actresses intensify, his ego simultaneously expands to more monstrous extremes. Under the giggling guise of an innocent crush, his reality warps, wires get crossed, and bountiful blood is shed. Though these vague descriptors could apply to many horror films, Be My Cat is doubtlessly unmatched.
To be frank, there’s no shortage of murderously masculine narratives in the genre, especially given the popularity of such non-found footage films as A Clockwork Orange and American Psycho along with Netflix’s hit show YOU. Naturally, parallels and overlaps are bound to happen, such as the likenesses between Be My Cat and Brice’s Creeps. That being said, bad-guy storytelling is so largely versatile that there are countless ways to do it, even when similarities do occur. While I’d never view Țofei’s film as enchanting or even rewatchable (two times was enough for me), there lies beauty in its authentically striking unpleasantness. The way Țofei crafted his character was ingenious, nuanced, and nauseatingly real. While I’ve seen my fair share of smiling villains before, Adrian as Adrian was raw and unfiltered. In the vein of extreme horror or the New French Extremity, I’m wondering if Țofei will kick off a new violent sub-genre. More will be revealed as soon as Be My Cat’s sequel We Put the World to Sleep is released.