Directed by: #DanielGreenway
Written by: #DanielGreenway
Inverting animal and human relationships is hardly a new metaphor to demonstrate uncomfortable truths about animal rights, factory-farming, or veganism. Daniel Greenway’s animated short Deep-Fried Fingers may not be treading new ground, but its precise, macabre message is one that hits deeper than much more elaborate attempts at highlighting the gruesome reality of how we treat the animals that become our food.
An unnamed human awakens in a slaughterhouse, his wounds protruding and his hands bound as he sees a shadowy, furry figure approach him with a butcher’s knife. His screams go unheard, as we transition to a Pig (Dee Harris), a Chicken (JP Wright), a Sheep (Daisy Hobbs) and a Cow (Ruth Pownall) enjoying dinner in a 5-star restaurant. Their waiter, a debonair Wolf, relays the meat-heavy menu – with a particular recommendation for the deep-fried human fingers. But as they order, Cow’s new-found aversion to meat becomes a topic of conversation.
In 5 short minutes, Deep-Fried Fingers manages to make a better statement about animal treatment and portray the often-awkward vegan experience better than most of the many hour-long documentaries on the same subjects. Like a twisted episode of Bojack Horseman, the animation is equal parts amusing and grisly, and is an effective format for portraying the awful conditions on farms whilst keeping the tone light enough to entertain.
Despite a strong message the film wears its heart away from its sleeve and never comes across as preachy – leaving viewers to come to their own conclusions on its fact-based allegories. It is stronger for its restraint – and allows its audience to realise the horrifying implications, such as the ‘infant’ option on the menu, or the futility of existence imposed upon the human cattle as the fingers are discarded into the trash when the pig notices a ring has not been removed. The lack of a direct message allows viewers to draw their own conclusions. And whilst not all viewers will convert to full-blown veganism upon watching, it will at least open eyes to the disturbing, undeniable realities of our meat-obsessed world.
General presentation is strong given the films limitations. The tonal shift from the horror-movie-style opening to the light conversational body of the film in the restaurant sets a disconcerting undercurrent that roots Greenway’s message. This directional choice allows for the horror to be maintained throughout, even after the butchery stops.
The voice acting of the animals is a little stiff at times but the conversation between them comes across as natural and authentic – Cow’s frustrations at explaining her aversion to human meat an all-too-familiar routine for vegetarian viewers. With a short running time, Greenway works effectively and efficiently to characterise each animal and establish personalities, which then clash logically. The unthinking dismissal of the plight of the humans by Pig and Sheep is not an act of intentional cruelty but wilful naivety – it is clear from the narrative that the director understands that it is this what requires combating.
Essentially a short fable, what Deep-Fried Fingers lacks in originality it makes up for in execution. It packs a strong core message and highlights uncomfortable societal truths in it’s 5-minute runtime, whilst including the right level of body horror to revolt. You might just think twice the next time you order at a restaurant, or question a friend on their dietary choices. And if you do, it has done its job.