On Friday nights, IndieWire After Dark takes a feature-length beat to honor fringe cinema in the streaming age. 

First, the spoiler-free pitch for one editor’s midnight movie pick — something weird and wonderful from any age of film that deserves our memorializing. 

Then, the spoiler-filled aftermath as experienced by the unwitting editor attacked by this week’s recommendation.

The Pitch: Do You Think Anne Hathaway Has Seen This?

Adrian Țofei is a great director. He also did this to himself.

If there’s an Icarus of the found footage genre, then it’s the mastermind behind “Be My Cat: A Film for Anne.” Țofei, an indie filmmaker and actor, stunned horror audiences in 2015 with his low-budget debut about an ambitious Romanian director turned serial killer… also named Adrian.

In the movie – which again is A MOVIE — the fictional Adrian’s artistic aspirations collide with his insatiable love for the real-life Anne Hathaway via a meticulously crafted fake snuff film.

“I saw you in ‘Dark Knight Rises,’” the starring sadist chirps to Hathaway. “And you are my actress.”

Yes, Țofei gave his first-ever major movie character the same name as himself. Then, he tasked that avatar, who is not at all based on his real personality, with carrying out a terrifying murder spree while speaking directly to a real-life Oscar winner. That choice has fascinated and confused audiences streaming the project online ever since.

“We worked on it for months so it looks real, and now it’s ironic how I have to pin to my socials that everything, including the character I play, is 100% fictional,” Țofei told IndieWire via Instagram. “And that no actress was endangered in the making, and that I have no weird thoughts towards Anne Hathaway. I just loved her performance in ‘Les Miserables.’”

Fan art given to Adrian Țofei

Using “evidence” discovered at a so-called crime scene, the auteur’s innagural feature is told by way of the bustling(?) eastern European casting couch. As technically adept as it is subtly assaulting, fake Adrian’s self-documented dream of making a blockbuster akin to Christopher Nolan’s most disappointing Batman centers him and three unsuspecting amateur actresses: Flory (Florentina Hariton), Sonya (Sonia Teodoriu), and Alexandra (Alexandra Stroe).

Convinced he can get the real Hathaway to sign onto a title if he just makes a strong enough proof of his skills as a director, Adrian begins production on a test project that quickly blooms into an especially unsettling kind of love letter to Hathaway. Adrian, of course, simply calls her Anne.

When each of Adrian’s would-be starlets realizes they are in danger, they all try different tactics to survive. Meanwhile, the deranged filmmaker obsesses over how their deaths… and the tortured artistry he brings to those deaths… might look to Anne. (Hathaway has never responded to the project publicly, but let me go on the record now as determined to inquire about it.)

Proof that no good idea goes without a gross misunderstanding, “Be My Cat” has indeed been interpreted incorrectly; that’s happened most often on the horror fan theory corner of TikTok, per Țofei.

Divided across continents and social platforms, this passionate but somewhat misguided cult following will occasionally send Țofei fan art that can be “creepier than the movie itself,” the director joked. But he emphasizes that fans’ confusion about what’s real isn’t widespread; with an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and endorsements from filmmakers like Mike Flanagan, the meta hidden gem is known first and foremost for launching Țofei’s career. Still, he doesn’t want any rumors spreading.

“A marketing idea for ‘Be My Cat’ was releasing viral clips as if uploaded by the psycho. I quickly renounced that fearing festival rejections and confusions in the industry,” Țofei told IndieWire. “Unfortunately for those who like to imagine that some of it is real, and fortunately for those who fear that possibility, all is acting, directing and storytelling.” —AF

If you are a filmmaker with a lesser known work of fringe cinema you’d like to see featured on IndieWire After Dark, email Alison Foreman (aforeman@indiewire.com) and Christian Zilko (czilko@indiewire.com). Make it weird, please!

The Aftermath: A Film for Anne. An After Dark for Adrian.

Spend enough time watching and evaluating fringe cinema and you’ll find that one question pops up more than any other: Do I like this movie, or do I like the fact that it exists?

It’s a topic that requires a bit of nuance, because midnight movie culture has always made room for films that aren’t “good” by conventional aesthetic standards. But throw on “The Room” or “Any Which Way You Can” in the right setting and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a crowd of people who are genuinely enjoying themselves. Maybe not for the exact reasons that the authors intended, but the contents of the film are bringing true happiness to the people consuming it.

But there’s a whole galaxy of gimmicky slasher movies, made-for-TV holiday monstrosities, ill-advised attempts at turning rock bands into actors, and other cinematic shlock that’s much more fun to reference than it is to actually watch. They might be worth seeking out once in a lifetime so that you can hoard their existence over your friends at trivia night or the readers of your niche IndieWire column, but they’d be just as enjoyable as fake movie posters in a “Seinfeld” episode as actual viewing experiences.

When I first encountered “Be My Cat: A Film for Anne,” I wasn’t sure which category it would fit into. I instantly respected Adrian Țofei’s bold willingness to follow such a realistic premise about toxic fan culture to its logical conclusion, but I figured that this kind of project ran the risk of slipping into novelty territory. The film carries on a proud tradition of found footage horror films that try to convince audiences that what they’re watching is actually real. But the extreme pop cultural literacy that the internet has bestowed upon us made me wonder if those kinds of gimmicks even have value anymore.

(Left to right): Florentina Hariton, Sonia Teodoriu, and Alexandra Stroe in “Be My Cat: A Film for Anne”

But I was thrilled to find that the film is much more than a publicity stunt thanks to the strength of one human being — and it’s not Anne Hathaway. Țofei’s character work is deeply unsettling, and I’ll admit that casting myself in such a fucked up role while using my own name is perhaps not the choice I would have made for my introduction to the world. But it’s hard not to admire the guts it takes to put yourself in such a fraught position for your art. Each viewer will have to make their own judgement about where the real Tofei lands on the brilliance-to-craziness spectrum, but I have no doubt that he was the only person capable of embodying “Be My Cat” with the skin-crawling disgust that has made it stick with me for so long.

The film’s insistence on blurring the line between cinema and reality and use of Hathaway’s real name means that many audiences will never fully separate the phenomenon of its existence from the film itself. But I still hope that anyone brave enough to seek this one out — perhaps as part of a perverse double feature with “The Idea of You” — can appreciate what Tofei put himself through in his quest to make his vision a reality.

Wishing that the legacy of “Be My Cat” will eventually transcend the phenomenon of “Did you hear that creepy Romanian guy actually made a movie about stalking Anne Hathaway?” might be asking for too much. But I hope that at least a few of our beloved After Dark readers can realize that the creepy Romanian guy also made a damn good horror movie, regardless of whose name is in the title. —CZ

A Note from Adrian Țofei on His Future Projects

“‘Be My Cat’ is the start of a trilogy made together with my wife, actress and writer Duru Yücel. All three movies are very different in style and substance, yet forming a cohesive universe. Second is ‘We Put the World to Sleep,’ currently in post-production, about a couple (played by me and Duru) on a mission to end the world, and third is ‘Pure’ (starring Duru), currently in development. We shot ‘We Put the World to Sleep’ over a period of five years in 13 locations across Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine with a diverse international cast, touching on issues our world is racing towards. Duru and I are also attached to a project most probably soon to be picked by a studio, it’s an exciting period to look forward to.”

Adrian Țofei and Duru Yücel in “We Put the World to Sleep”

Those brave enough to join in on the fun can stream “Be My Cat: A Film for Anne” free on YouTube, Tubi, Fandango At Home, and The Roku Channel. IndieWire After Dark publishes midnight movie recommendations at 11:59 p.m. ET every Friday. Read more of our deranged suggestions…

  • Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with ‘Zardoz,’ the Strangest Sean Connery Blockbuster Ever Filmed in Ireland
  • Les Blank’s ‘Burden of Dreams’ Sees Werner Herzog Try to Push a 320-Ton Ship Up a Hill in the Jungle
  • ‘A Zed & Two Noughts’ Is the Lust-Filled Zoological Tragedy That Belongs in a Midnight Movie Museum

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