Remember Cats? Not everyone’s favourite felines, but the 2019 Tom Hooper-directed movie musical Cats. That film broke the internet (and perhaps the world) with its incredibly creepy human-cat hybrids, thanks largely to some deplorable working conditions that led to lackluster VFX. But there’s a new player in the creepy cat game, one so unsettling that it’ll make you wonder if you’ll ever want a feline friend in your house again. Meet Alfie, the four-legged terror of Argylle.
Whether traveling to visit family or fleeing from assassins, author Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard) always has her cat Alfie, a Scottish Fold, by her side — or rather, in a backpack. It’s a CG abomination, and frankly it wouldn’t wouldn’t be amiss in Pet Sematary. But don’t worry, we’ll process this together.
This is a survival guide for managing all the complicated feelings that will inevitably arise watching Alfie in Argylle.
The initial shock and anger upon seeing Alfie.
Credit: Universal Pictures
I’ve had a cat in my life since I was in kindergarten, and I have never once seen a cat that looks like Alfie. At first glance, Alfie looks like an actual cat. But seconds later, when you’re staring into its dead digital eyes, it’s clear that you’re dealing with something far more sinister. Nothing about his movements feels authentic. His mouth feels awry, and its paws seem strange. Alfie’s fur seems believable, which makes the whole thing more uncomfortable. You can never gauge if this cat is friend or foe. It’s an incredibly odd choice to CG every shot of this cat, but you can tell by Alfie’s movements that this is nothing but a cat-poster.
Most of the time Alfie is on-screen, he’s in Elly’s backpack, which conveniently has a bubble-shaped window for Alfie to look out of, and less fortunately, offers us a chance to look at Alfie. Occasionally Alfie blinks or moves slightly, breaking the illusion that someone has cut and pasted a photo of this cat and glued it to the backpack. Because most of the time, he’ll sit there looking off into space, in what seems to be a direct reference to the famous and adorable laser yearbook photo cat that went viral in 2014. But while that photo is adorable and that cat is bursting with personality, Alfie’s face is completely vacant.
Coming to terms with a feline hellspawn.
Credit: Universal Pictures
Now that we’ve processed the way Alfie’s blank stares burrow their way into your mind (and nightmares), it’s time to reveal an incredibly harsh truth. Alfie is a real cat; more specifically, he’s the pet of Argylle director Matthew Vaughn’s daughter. The cat’s breed, Scottish Fold, is also cause for concern, as it’s associated with exorbitant costs and significant health issues — so much so that animal welfare organizations have raised concerns over having the Scottish Fold shown prominently in the film.
Alfie’s real name is Chip (in a spy movie-level twist, my own childhood cat’s name was Chip), and perhaps he was on set for some scenes. But Chip’s performance is clearly very heavily digitized. In some scenes, it makes perfect sense — Alfie gets thrown off of a roof, after all — but in others, like when he’s just walking around, he winds up looking like the victim of a creepy Snapchat filter. It’s eerie and difficult to process. Still, knowing that there’s a real cat behind Alfie winds up being more reassuring than terrifying.
Just when you think you’re at peace, any cat owner will be struck by a concerning realization: Where in the world is his litter box? It’s a gross but willing sacrifice any cat owner will make — (most) cats don’t use a toilet, after all; they poo and pee in a box. This leads us to the devastating conclusion, just as we were finally getting comfortable with this goblin lurking around, that he’s forced to relieve himself in the same backpack he spends 95% of the film in. That’s just unforgivable. Perhaps that dead stare isn’t a technical error, but a cry for help from a digital cat trapped by a cutesy carrier to bring some charm to this cat-astrophe of an action-comedy.
Finally, we come to acceptance.
Credit: Universal Pictures
After hours of being mostly innocuous, just sitting there and judging you with his soulless glare, Alfie reveals his true intentions. What should be a hilarious moment of a deranged cat flying at Bryan Cranston’s snarling villain becomes something more sinister, when Alfie full on kills the vicious spymaster. It’s in this brutal death-by-eye-gouge that we finally learn what Alfie is capable of, and it’s the kind of violence that recalls Game of Thrones. (RIP, Oberyn Martell!)
There’s no hesitation; Alfie leaps from the ground in a blind rage, and a close-up shot reveals the full extent of the menace that’s been hiding in his (allegedly) sweet face. It’s here we see the demon in his final form snarling at the camera, teeth unsheathed, and ready for murder.
There’s plenty of killings in Argylle; it is, after all, from the filmmaker behind Kick-Ass and Kingsman. Yet Alfie makes alarmingly quick work of Elly’s enemy and promptly returns to her side, sitting calmly as if nothing ever happened. After nearly two hours of worrying about what this demonic creature is capable of, he has shown us his full, shocking potential.
Finally, we can reach acceptance — not that we are safe and that Alfie is just computer-generated, but that one day, this furry little hellion will come for us all.