Archives for posts with tag: Cat People

Cat Creature

The Cat Creature (1973) ****

A suspenseful TV movie with a solid genre pedigree, The Cat Creature was written by Psycho novelist Robert Bloch and directed by Curtis Harrington, whose previous forays into horror included the Shelley Winters classics What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971) and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972). The Cat Creature‘s hokey but involving story melds elements from old standards Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932), and Cat People (1942), for a film that reverentially prowls familiar territory, but also marks it with a distinctive musk.

A young Meredith Baxter stars as Rena, a shy woman who takes a job working for sinister Hester Black (Gale Sondergaard) in her occult curiosity shop in Hollywood, catering to dykes, eccentrics, and satanic dilettantes. Things seem to be going well for her until a police detective (Stuart Whitman) comes to question her about a missing Egyptian amulet and drops the bombshell that her predecessor jumped to her death from a balcony.

People have been succumbing to strange, cat-related deaths ever since a “part-time handyman, full-time wino”, and burglar (Kung Fu‘s Keye Luke) stole the amulet from a mummy’s coffin. Meanwhile, the police have brought in a charming archaeologist (David Hedison), who hopes to put the moves on Rena while also solving the mystery of the amulet and all the horrible catty crimes associated with its discovery. Will the professor be able to figure it all out before more are murdered and Rena falls prey to an ancient and evil Egyptian agenda?

The Cat Creature is a relatively classy (albeit low-budget) affair until a high-camp climactic twist knocks it straight into the gonzosphere. Laughable ending notwithstanding, the film has enough going for it to warrant horror aficionados’ attention. The future hippie mother of Alex P. Keaton looks sweet and innocent enough to munch, while Whitman lends the film some weight with his usual air of cool, haggard authority and experience. John Carradine also has a cameo appearing alongside a drunk midget whore.

4 out of 5 stars.

Manhattan Baby poster

Manhattan Baby (1982) ***1/2

This Poltergeist-inspired spaghetti chiller has a reputation as something of a bastard stepchild among the works of gore specialist Lucio Fulci. This is unsurprising, considering that most of the movie is bloodless and comes up short in the scares department. However, for those who appreciate the director more for his stylistic tendencies – his unsubtle closeups, languid pacing, tedium punctuated with shrill hysterics, and spacy evocations of vague sensations and dreamlike states of being – Manhattan Baby finds the master mining the mother lode. Great gore there is, though, particularly toward the end, when a flock of taxidermied birds spring to life and swoop into ravenous action, pecking and ripping some sad Italian greaseball to shreds.

What plot there is concerns an archaeologist (Christopher Connelly) whose daughter becomes possessed by something evil in Egypt after receiving an amulet from a blind beggar woman in a desolate square; but Manhattan Baby is less concerned with plot points or logic than with atmospherics and strange set pieces, sometimes seeming less like a narrative feature than a series of otherworldly, disconnected episodes. Certainly, this one is going to be a difficult sell to anyone other than devoted Lucio Fulci fans and hardcore Italo-horror buffs, who will also enjoy the sight of familiar faces like Connelly (Raiders of Atlantis), child actor Giovanni Frezza (The House by the Cemetery), and Fulci himself in a cameo. Anybody who does have a taste for such fare, however, really does need to see the aforementioned scene of the man-eating birds.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. (Only earning a solid three stars, Manhattan Baby receives an extra charity half-star for featuring blue 80s lasers that zap Christopher Connelly in the eyes.)

canyons poster

Paul Schrader (Hardcore; Cat People) delivers a characteristically decadent study with this, his eighteenth film as a director. Scripted by Bret Easton Ellis of Less Than Zero and American Psycho fame, The Canyons is at once tawdry, elegant, and meanspirited, and one of the most notable films of the year.

An extremely frank narrative revolves around repulsively spoiled trust fund wastrel Christian (James Deen), who whiles away his days corrupting the people around him and manipulating them like so many toys. So as to satisfy his father that he has an occupation, he dabbles in movies as a producer, which brings him into indifferent contact with handsome, aspiring actor Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk). Christian professes to like to keep his openly open marriage with slut wife Tara (Lindsay Lohan) comfortably “loose” and “complicated”, but finds more complication than he probably desires when he discovers that seemingly wholesome Ryan has a previous history with Tara.

A constant doom hangs over The Canyons, its title both geographically and thematically descriptive of this sun-baked but gloomy experience. Punctuating the film are images of the empty marquees and ruined interiors of once-glorious, now abandoned movie theaters serving at once as commentary on an industry and on the characters’ inner desolation. Hollywood’s stories about itself, from Sunset Boulevard, In a Lonely Place, and The Bad and the Beautiful through Day of the Locust, The Player, and Hollywoodland, have tended to be downbeat affairs, and The Canyons continues in that tradition – less gothically or spectacularly, perhaps, than the more grotesque entries in the genre, but no less despairing by any measure.

Classy in execution if totally tacky in subject matter, The Canyons is well worth seeking out. James Deen is perfectly detestable as Christian, Nolan Funk’s male beauty is appropriately vapid, and luscious but fading Lindsay Lohan is exquisitely cast as jaded but sympathetic hussy Tara.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Canyons is:

5. Anti-drug. “Why are you drinking tequila at noon?” The danger of date rape drugs receives mention.

4. Anti-gay. Homosexuality appears as a predatory symptom of personal and cultural decadence.

3. Class-conscious. Inherited, unearned wealth like Christian’s gives rise to degeneracy and arrogance.

2. Technology-skeptical. Y appears as a generation rotten in inception and already gone to seed, at once precocious and empty-headed, and incapable of conversing over drinks without texting or sexting simultaneously. One suspects that Schrader holds handheld and streaming technology to be at least partly to blame for the murder of those stately old movie houses. Technology, too, has contributed to these young ones’ flippancy with regard to sexual morality. “Nobody has a private life anymore” and “We’re all actors, aren’t we?” Identity theft also looms as a threat in the world of online everything.

1. Crypto-traditionalist/anti-slut. For all its blatant depravity, male frontal nudity, and other marks of deceptively casual nihilism, The Canyons views its characters through a detached but quietly tragic, judgmental, and conservative lens. “I’m just sick of the old school shit about fuckin’ propriety, etiquette, and all that crap [. . .] It’s like when you’re at your family dinner on Sunday and everyone’s just lying, lying . . .” Christian explains – and he and his peers suffer to the degree that they deviate from the outmoded norms. Christian’s name speaks for itself as a sarcastic commentary on an utterly godless generation given to hedonistic materialism and soulless egoism. The only thing missing from The Canyons is the compounded case of venereal pestilence these little horrors would (hopefully) catch if they lived as depicted for very long.

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