We’re back with the annual horror movie festival at my house, and the theme this year is cats! We started off with Cat’s Eye, a 1985 horror anthology that I remember well because it was filmed on location in my hometown: Wilmington, NC. In fact, my friend’s house was used in exterior shots for one of the story segments, and various locations around town are recognizable in/ the movie. Because of this, I think every kid at my school had seen this movie.
Like Creepshow, this movie is a horror anthology based on short stories from Stephen King, and with the stories tending towards black humor rather than pure horror. But unlike Creepshow, these three stories have few elements of fantasy or the supernatural, being mostly character-based horror a la Alfred Hitchcock. The stories are connected by a tabby cat that appears in each episode.
I think the best of the segments is the first one, about a smoker named Dick Morrison who signs up with an organization, Quitters Inc., that goes to really extreme lengths to make sure their clients quit smoking. As a demonstration of their methods, the counselor, Vinnie, pulls back a curtain in his office to reveal a glass wall. Behind the wall is a cat sitting on a metal grid. Vinnie flips a switch and the grid is electrified, with the cat jumping around in pain as his paws spark whenever they touch the metal. Vinnie tells Dick that if he smokes a cigarette, he’ll be watching his wife dance in the room next.
Dick’s on good behavior for a couple weeks, but then he’s caught in a traffic jam and his stress level is through the roof. He finds half a pack of cigarettes in his glove compartment. Nobody will see him if he sneaks a puff in his car, will they? He lights it and sucks in, then notices the guy in the convertible next to him is watching him. When Dick gets back to his house, his wife is missing and a driver is waiting to take him to the Quitters, Inc., offices. Their methods really work.
The second segment is the one I like least, though it’s still not bad. The cat arrives in Atlantic City, where it’s trying to cross a busy street. Two gamblers bet on whether he’ll make it alive. He does, and the winning gambler, who’s some sort of mob boss, takes him home to his penthouse apartment on top of a tall building. The mob boss has learned his wife is having an affair, and has his goons bring the affair partner to the penthouse. He could just shoot the man, but the mob boss enjoys a wager, so instead he bets the man can’t make it all the way around the ledge of the building, twenty stories up from the pavement. If the man can do it, he gets to keep the mob boss’s wife. If not…splat. Like I said, this one’s okay.
The third episode sees the cat arrive in Wilmington, NC, where he’s adopted by a young girl who names him General. This is the only one where the cat’s involvement is really crucial to the story. The girl’s mother doesn’t like General and wants him to stay outside at night, but the dad thinks maybe the cat will help the girl get over the nightmares she’s been having about a little monster coming in her room and trying to kill her. In fact, they aren’t nightmares at all, but real, and only General can fight the monster off. General’s fight with the little monster (sort of a tiny gnome or elf) makes a mess of the room, and of course the mother blames the cat, disbelieving the girl’s protestations that the cat is protecting her. The mother takes the cat to the local pound. Can General escape in time to make it back to the house, and find a way into the girl’s room to save her that night?
Cat’s Eye (1985)
Story/Plot/Characters— All three of these stories were interesting, the script and acting were decent, and I like the framing mechanism of the cat. Unlike Creepshow, with its five segments, Cat’s Eye‘s three segments provided a bit more time character development, particularly in the first segment, where we get a good idea about Dick’s life and family. (3 points)
Special Effects–Not a real heavy special effects movie, but where used they’re effective, especially in the third episode, with the fights between General and the monster. (1 point)
Scariness— Not too scary, with the episodes played more for laughs than frights. (.5 points)
Atmosphere/Freakiness— Not too atmospheric, but the first episode in a particular gets freaky as we see just how over the top the anti-smoking organization will go to make sure its clients stop smoking. (.5 points)
Total=5 points (Okay)