Earlier this month, the first trailer for Cats dropped and it may just be the most divisive movie of the year. While some people were in utter awe of the visual spectacle, others found the trailer to be “creepy” and “unsettling.”
In fact, many fans took to Twitter immediately after the trailer’s release to voice their opinions. The film, which features an all-star cast including Taylor Swift and Jennifer Hudson, began trending not because people were excited, but because they were horrified.
If you haven’t yet seen the trailer, you can watch it here before you read any further:
Among the YouTube comments, a user describes the teaser as “Nightmare fuel at its finest” while another clarifies: “It looks like someone skinned their faces and stretched it over some unnatural humanoid cat figure, making it look flat and downright weird.”
The feline effect was achieved using “digital fur technology.” This means that the stars retain their human movement and human faces, but have the furry body of a cat edited on in post-production. But why is the result giving people the creeps?
If you read our article on dolls in movies last week, you might recall our conversation on the uncanny valley. This is the category of non-human things that look semi-realistically human. Anabelle the horrifying doll, for example, does not look unrealistic enough to be categorically fake, but does not look human enough for us to know how to read it.
In the Cats trailer, these “digital fur” hybrids fall somewhere between our idea of a human and something of an entirely different entity. This uncertainty leaves us with the feeling that something is not quite right. We don’t know what characteristics to assign to the hybrids because they are not catlike enough to be cats but they’re not human enough to be humans. Our brains just don’t know what to do with that information.
Ultimately, the Cats trailer takes place in the uncanny valley and while this has inevitably caused many to shudder, the movie is not necessarily doomed to fail. The hybrid creatures have evoked a peculiar curiosity within us and if we can run with it, the movie may be a bizarrely satisfying experience. Check back in December for our full review.