‘Stopmotion’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Did Ella Finally Complete Her Masterpiece?

Mary Shelley’s magnum opus Frankenstein might have highlighted the theme prominently with potent fright and nuance, but creators being haunted by their creations has been a recurrent motif in art and literature since antiquities. In works of merit, a thorough delineation of the topic often entails a narrative discussion of topics like the tribulations and failures involving the creative process, the pursuit of perfection, hindrances through self-doubt, the search for a creative voice, etc. Robert Morgan’s Stopmotion,  a doomed, grotesque celebration of everything creative, juggles all these topics and more with enough care as to not become tedious or pretentious while teetering on the midpoint of psychological and supernatural horror at the same time. By no means is it implied that the movie reinvents the genre or subverts expectations, as it mostly retreads familiar tracks while showcasing the horrors that can plague a creative mind. Stopmotion excels in acing the basics, treating the issues it tries to convey with a certain sincerity, and showcasing a bold, vibrant spectacle that justifies the subject matter in the best ways. Building on the cues scattered in the beginning, the movie turns out to be extremely satisfying by the end, as it manages to live up to its potential.

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Spoilers Ahead


Why Did Ella Abandon Her Mother’s Last Project?

As Stopmotion begins, viewers are taken into the apartment studio of renowned veteran stop-motion animator Suzanne Blake. The practice of stop-motion animation is an extremely precise and delicate art, as every minute movement of a clay-made doll with a skeleton-like armature underneath is captured in pictures to create a seamless, fluid video that almost breathes new life into the lifeless characters. During her heyday, Suzanne had received much acclaim and was considered a legend in the sphere of stopmotion filmmaking, but eventually old age caught up to her as, due to arthritis, she can no longer use her hands to create wonders like she used to. Her daughter, Ella, has inherited her talents, as she too is proficient in the art of making inanimate characters move in a lifelike way, and Suzanne wants her daughter to complete her last work on her behalf: A Tale of Cyclops. 

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However, Suzanne is extremely dominating, demanding, and at times almost ruthless as a mentor figure to her daughter, with her presence so overpowering that Ella barely has a life of her own outside the studio. During the time Suzanne remains awake, Ella has to spend hours in the studio adhering to her harsh commands or helping her with regular activities. It’s only when her mother falls asleep that Ella gets a chance to sneak outside, meet her boyfriend, Tom, and try to socialize, as much of her life is still controlled by her mother. 

Once, while instructing Ella in the studio, Suzanne suffered a heart attack and fell into a coma. Admitting her mother to the hospital, Ella takes it upon herself to finish her work and continues shooting the movie in the studio. Occasionally, Ella is frightened by visions of terror, like when, on one instance, she sees her mother lying dead in the apartment and, in the next moment, sees the fleshy, bony, sinewy armor underneath her skin. 

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A little girl, who was seemingly passing by the apartment, visits the studio and shows keen interest in stop-motion animation. Having found an interested audience, Ella shares the process in detail and also shows the current project she is working on—her mother’s last movie. The girl appears to be disinterested in the tale of Cyclops and states that she has a better story to tell. Ella wants to know about her idea, and she narrates a story about a scared girl who gets lost in the forest and is being chased by an unknown entity. Before leaving, the little girl asks Ella to make the scared girl using mortician’s wax—the one that is used to cover up the blemishes and injuries of the deceased. Ella takes her request lightly and goes back to her mother’s project. 


What Is The Reason For Ella To Be Afraid?

That very day, Ella sees the forest in her imagination and falls into a dazed state of unconsciousness, only to be later awakened by Tom, who had arrived at her apartment to check on her. Upon waking up, she realizes that she has replaced her mother’s creation with the little girl’s story, complete with the new settings of a forest, a scared girl made out of wax, and everything else. Seemingly finding her own voice, Ella decides to completely abandon Suzanne’s work and, throwing the previous set in the garbage, starts fully concentrating on her new work. Meanwhile, Tom’s sister Polly visits her studio with an offer to join their stopmotion production company, takes a good look at Ella’s new project, and mentions how sharpening her senses by taking substances has helped her with the creative process. 

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The little girl visits her studio once again, and this time Ella is happy to show her that she is bringing her story to life. However, the kid comes up with the unusual request of making the scared girl using raw meat to impart a sense of realism. Initially taken aback by the proposal, Ella argues that, with the first scene already shot in wax form, a new appearance will not sync well. The girl opines that doing so might suggest that her creations are growing, and Ella accepts this perspective. Using raw meat, she also creates the antagonistic figure, the man who is chasing the scared girl, and as the kid uses ash in the formation of the man’s doll, Ella names him Ash Man. Grateful she’s taken her suggestion, the kid narrates more of her story: the scared girl finds a house inside the forest and hides in there to escape from the Ashman. The Ash Man comes three nights, knocks on the door, and the kid doesn’t continue the story any further. Ella shoots the movie up to that point, and at that point, she feels someone knocking at her apartment door as well. 

The little girl returns at night and brings Ella outside while sharing her suggestion of giving Ash Man a more ‘dead’ makeover by using the flesh and pelt of a fox carcass. This is the point at which Ella decides to draw the line, as she is unwilling to entertain the requests, which continue to grow more grotesque. The kid taunts her, saying she won’t tell her the rest of the story—as to what happens in those three nights—and angrily leaves. Ella insists that it is her movie and tries to come up with ideas to further the story, but eventually fails. Disheartened, Ella visits a comatose Suzanne in the hospital and admits her incompetence. 

Desperately searching for ideas, Ella meets Polly at the club where she used to hang out and decides to take substances in order to clear her mind. In a trippy, psychedelic sequence, Ella goes through a surreal experience of listening, feeling, and seeing ominous, violent, and provocative signs all around her. She makes love to Tom and feels his physique in such a way that she is measuring accurate proportions to modify her creations even further. In a dazed state, Ella feels the bloody injury of a man involved in a bar fight, and the little girl is shown to be guiding her hands. In her confused state of mind, Ella decides to follow the kid, and this time she takes her suggestion to bring the fox carcass back home to recreate the Ash man in a more gruesome, visceral way. The kid narrates before leaving that on the first night, the Ash man sees the scared girl, and later, Ella is scared out of her wits when she sees a life-sized version of her grotesque creation visiting her apartment. A scared Ella faints, and the next morning, she gets awakened by Tom. As she shares her fear with her boyfriend, he can’t help but feel her experience to be a part of substance-induced hallucinations, but Ella finds out that she’d never actually ended up taking any. Extremely afraid, she decides to leave the studio and stay with Tom for the time being, abandoning her work in the process. 


Did Ella Finally Complete Her Masterpiece?

Nightmares of her creations coming alive and harming her deprive Ella of a good night’s sleep even at Tom’s place, but she gradually starts to return to a better mental state. She takes a new job at the stopmotion production company Polly works for, and this is where a bitter revelation takes her back to the sordid past she needed to escape. She discovers that Polly stole her story of the scared girl and, in a polished, mainstream way, has managed to recreate it at her company. An enraged Ella creates a ruckus at the office and gets promptly fired. Feeling dejected and confused, Ella visits a still-comatose Suzanne at the hospital and, in an imaginary sequence, speaks with her about her conflicts. Ella is essentially caught in a dilemma, as she fears what will happen next if she continues her work and what happens if she doesn’t. Suzanne pities her daughter for sharing her own morbid imagination and taunts her, saying that she has no control over it at the same time. 

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Ella returns to her studio and finds the little kid inside as she prepares to shoot the second night’s scene. According to the kid’s narration, the Ash man touches the scared girl on the second night, but Ella decides to change the version to script the scared girl escaping her fate. The kid argues against the change, but Ella emphatically states that it is her story and she will do as she pleases. However, the Ash man comes to life, chases Ella, who alternatively swaps places with the scared girl as the metaphorical significance becomes more and more pronounced, and eventually catches up to her. The Ash man tortures Ella, and before losing her consciousness, she sees the little kid mocking her attempt to change the story. 

The next day, Ella wakes up in the hospital with a leg wound and engages in an argument with Tom, who believes her macabre, ghastly creations to be responsible for her degrading mental state. Tom decides to destroy the movie and every involved aspect, but Ella pleads with him not to, promising that she will put an end to it. That very day, Suzanne dies, and Ella doesn’t even have the chance to grieve her as the little kid has already arrived to take her back to Hell—the movie she has become morbidly obsessed with. 

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As Ella returns to the studio, the kid remarks that they need something even more visceral, lively, and ‘bleedy’ than the fox meat, and in her last desperate attempt to escape her fate, Ella tries to kill the kid by choking her to death. Obviously she isn’t able to kill her, for the kid is a manifestation of her morbid imagination, and all out of hope, Ella accepts whatever horrid fate awaits her. She is afraid, wondering what happens on the third night after Ash’s arrival, and the kid comforts her, stating things will get better. She suggests Ella imbue part of herself into her creation, as all great creators tend to do, and convinces her to peel out her flesh to modify the gnarly creations even more. Polly and Tom arrive at her apartment and are horrified to see her in the act. Their effort to stop Ella goes in vain, as, in a deranged state, Ella brutally kills both of them. 

The kid is elated at the opportunity to degenerate Ella’s craft even further, as, in a hypnotic state, Ella creates life-sized versions of Ash Man and the scared girl from the bodily remains of her victims. It’s the third night, and Ash Man confronts Ella, who seemingly has no power or desire to resist him anymore. Facing her worst fear in front of her, Ella digs through her face, which has turned into mortician’s wax, and offers it to the monstrous creation of hers—her last sacrifice. Ash Man consumes Ella in a sequence that resembles Francisco Goya’s painting of “Saturn Devouring His Son,” and the scene ends by indicating the death of Ella. It’s quite ironic how the reference works out in this context; in this case, it’s the creator who gets consumed by the creation.

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Stopmotion‘s ending takes place in Ella’s imaginary forest, where inside the house, she meets the kid once again, who is looking at the finished movie, which ends with Ella’s death in the physical world. The kid praised her on the success, and finally, a sense of satisfaction engulfs Ella, who proceeds to enter a box, just like Suzanne said puppets do after their usefulness ends. Stopmotion‘s ending acutely portrays the suffering of Ella as a creator who lost so much of herself while working on the whims of her mother that self-doubt, dissatisfaction with her craft, hankering for validation, and striving for perfection marred the rest of her life as well, which could have fared well if she had realized that she is not bound by expectations and has her own free will. In a vicious, self-destructive pursuit of artistic brilliance, she burned herself and ended the people closer to her who could have helped her come out of her misery. 


Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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