Aimy in a Cage (2015) is the directorial debut of Hooroo Jackson and is based on his 2012 graphic novel titled Aimy Micry. The story follows a young woman named Aimy Micry (played by Allisyn Snyder) as she is tortured by her friends and family during a quarantined pandemic. The film utilizes a single shooting location to its advantage as the Micry home becomes an amplification of the trapped and helpless emotions of Aimy’s torment and of her family’s sanity as the virus outside worsens. While Aimy in a Cage is meant to be a dark-comedy, it covers heavy topics such as trauma, physical and mental abuse, and the general public’s treatment of mental illness in very shocking and somewhat disturbing ways. The narrative is relentless in displaying Aimy’s abusive situation, to the point of watching Aimy being punished for both disobeying and obeying orders given to her by her abusers.
I discovered this film by accident; Aimy in a Cage came up as a suggestion on my living room television for several months before I finally decided I should see what it’s all about. As usual, I went into the movie completely blind but I was expecting the worst. The cover poster made the film seem as if it might be a straight to DVD home movie in the worst possible way. I worried that it might be a waste of time, that there would be nothing worth commenting on for the blog, and that it would be dull to sit through. However, I was immediately proven wrong once the film began.
Aimy in a Cage captivated me from the very beginning and held my attention until the end. The writing, characters, set design, and the actors ability to play their roles so well was a refreshing change of pace from some of the films I have been watching lately. The writing and art direction especially bring out the best in this movie as much of the dialog is as melodramatic as a John Waters movie and much of the set design is as soothing and aesthetically pleasing as a Wes Anderson film. The combination of a disturbing narrative of a young woman being tortured inside of a cartoon world of pastels and mod fashion is striking for its horror and its beauty. The only weakness I found in the film was the conclusion – the movie suddenly decides that it’s done. The ending is very anticlimactic and comes across as if the writer were unsure how to end the narrative. I typically don’t get irritated by unsatisfactory endings because I can find purpose in an unsatisfying conclusion – but Aimy in a Cage’s ending is too terrible to excuse. There is a short after credits scene that briefly continues the film’s last scene, but whether it makes the end better or not is up for debate.
Each of the characters, including side characters, are written in a believable manner despite their occasional melodrama. Everyone except Aimy is an antagonist and they’re all great at performing as the shittiest humans imaginable. I believe one of the highlights of the film are the few moments we have between Grandma Micry and Aimy. Not only are the characters equal in their insanity, but the actresses Terry Moore and Allisyn Snyder bounce off each other’s zaniness incredibly well and one can tell that there’s a lot of chemistry between the women.
One of the most important things I look for in any movie is if a deeper meaning or analysis can successfully be done to it. Or in other words, does this film stand for something apart from being a piece of entertainment? For Aimy in a Cage this is a resounding yes – there are several topics which could be discussed and analyzed within this film. Primarily, I noticed how many underlying themes Aimy in a Cage shares with A Clockwork Orange – I would go as far as to state that Aimy in a Cage is the “girl edition” of the torment Alex DeLarge endured within Burgess’s novel and Kubrick’s film. While Alex’s journey is focused on his natural inclination and happiness towards severe violence, Aimy’s journey is focused on not acting the way a lady should act. Literally the only crime she commits is being a little bit of a brat and not being ladylike and she undergoes surgery and receives terrible physical and mental abuse because of her refusal to conform.
Aimy’s journey hit home for me as it seems the film is targeted towards girls who have been belittled and bullied for simply being eccentric. Her wild nature that she gets condemned for isn’t even that crazy – she dances, paints, and does whatever she likes but she’s not like Alex where other humans are getting harmed by her actions. The brain surgery Aimy undergoes (which, like Alex’s “cure”, has painful adverse effects on her) is all because she stole and played with one of her grandmother’s dolls. In retaliation Aimy will attempt to be as insane as those around her make her out to be, but in the silent moments where the audience sees her alone Aimy seems exhausted and, eventually, suicidal from others consistently attempting for force her into a box where she doesn’t fit. The cruelty of those around her, though dramatized, rings uncomfortable truth behind how some truly see mental illness or depression. A line her supposed boyfriend Steve (played by Michael William Hunter) states stuck out to me, “Everyone wants to live while she wants to die. She just has to be different!” At this point, Aimy’s emotions and psyche have been permanently boiled down to “not like other girls” syndrome by those around her. She “has to be different” by wishing to die in order to end her constant torment, to the point of purposefully starving herself so it can cease – yeah, Aimy is definitely just trying to not be like other girls. While the line is mildly funny, it’s heavy at the same time because it makes one wonder how many eccentric girls have received the same treatment.
And this is only one angle of vision when analyzing Aimy in a Cage. Within is a variety of different angles and arguments one can discuss when taking a deeper look at the film’s message. The range of possibilities can go from a discussion of trauma and families to a discussion of the effects of a pandemic and societal collapse. It’s truly a thoughtful and strong piece of work.
Aimy in a Cage – 90% – A Tier
The art direction and writing makes Aimy in a Cage feel like the perfect cinematic love-child between Wes Anderson, John Waters, and Stanley Kurbrick. However, it feels this way without also feeling like a direct copy of these directors’ works. In other words, Hooroo Jackson’s filmmaking voice is distinct and unique while feeling familiar at the same time. I believe Aimy in a Cage is a cult classic movie waiting to happen as time goes on. Although it doesn’t receive very much recognition currently, everything is present for this to be a big hit amongst cult film followers and I believe it deserves this recognition and title as well. For a movie that first seemed to me like it might be a low-budget, straight to DVD type film with terrible acting and plot, it actually ended up being the exact opposite. Aimy in a Cage truly blew my expectations out of the water and I’m now obsessed with Aimy Micry as a character.
Aimy in a Cage is available to stream for free through Tubi and PlutoTV. It is also available for streaming through Amazon Prime Video.