Directed by Jan Svankmajer starring Veronica Zilková, Jan Hartl, Kristina Adamcová, Jaroslava Kretschmerová and Pavel Novy.

Childless husband and wife Karel (Hartl) and Bozena (Zilková) Horák are coming apart at the seams over their inability to start a family. While holidaying in the country, Karel unearths a tree stump which is the same size as an infant and whose roots and branches look like arms, legs and a face. Hoping his discovery will bring a smile to the inconsolable Bozena, he presents the piece of wood to her. But Bozena becomes obsessed with the new arrival, faking pregnancy and giving her 'Little Otik' a life of its own. But Otik soon outgrows his parents and wreaks gory havoc in their apartment block.

Czech surrealist director Svankmajer has won international acclaim for his reworkings of fairytales and stop-motion animation, but while he deserves credit for bringing a skewed slant to the whole science vs nature debate, 'Little Otik' never quite fulfils its early promise. The first 20 minutes set you up for a glorious collision of Ray Harryhausen and Todd Solondz but the film's shock storyline soon becomes a dull plod which fails to do justice to the humour and horror at its centre.

At two hours plus, 'Little Otik' needs a good half-hour chopped off the running time to give the narrative extra sparkle – the scenes where Karel and Bozena try and figure out what to do about the monster in the baby buggy become tedious all too quickly and you don't see enough of Otik in the closing stages to break the monotony.

The best performance comes from 12-year-old Kristina Adamcová, as the next door neighbour Alzbìtka who figures out what the Horáks are hiding and, desperate for a friend, tries to become Otik's pal (and lunch provider). Adamcová's scenes with her onscreen parents (Kretschmerová and Novy) are very funny and make you wonder why Svankmajer didn't make Otik the new addition to their family.

Some guffaws but plenty of yawns too.

Harry Guerin