Our feline friends have a long history in Cinema of being attached to malevolence. Much more so than dogs, who in reality may seem more avuncular than cats, but are far more likely to cause real physical damage to the body should they turn malevolent. It is not hard to cast a massive rabid St Bernard like Cujo as an instrument of terror. And it is easy to crap yourself when confronted with him.
All cats can really do is swipe at you with their claws, but the great thing is that directors have tried to make them horror bad guys in several films that are either laughably silly or genius, with the mediocre in between. I have selected a choice of five films which feature baddie cats. I live in fear of ever encountering them – purr me.
They have nine lives, we only have one.
Young married couple retreat to the country and buy an idyllic house to raise their daughter in and give her a better life. However, the house is ruled by a bunch of evil moggies who hassle the family, intent upon removing them from their sacred abode.
Not very well regarded horror movie that provokes more laughs than frights, the film wastes Kathleen Quinlan who is a very good actress and tries her best with the dreck that is the film’s script. The idea that 9 lb weighing cats can cause such havoc is a little hard to swallow. The cats in this film are not remotely scary and if you wish to be shocked or frightened, you will majorly have to suspend your disbelief. Some people may say that cats are not good horror film villains being small, cute and furry, but I think cats can be quite menacing (obviously not in Strays though) if they get the right treatment, it takes a skilled director.
Night Of A 1000 Cats (1972)
Pray you have nine lives…
Hugo is a millionaire playboy who farts about Acapulco looking for laydeez. He takes them back to his castle to seduce them and with the aid of Gorgo, his loyal personal assistant, he murders the women and chops them up in little pieces to feed to his squadron of ill behaved little kitties who are flesh hungry maniacs themselves. Hugo keeps the heads of the women killed embalmed to remind him of the good times…
Any film made by Rene Cardona Jnr is worth checking out. They may be B Movies but they always have a certain sleazy charm about them. Night of a 1000 Cats is no exception to the rule (apart from the fact that there is way too much time spent flying about the place – we want cat food fodder! And plenty of it!). Charming for fans of exploitation, few else would want to bother with the movie. The victims are quite repetitive and there is not much dialogue going on in the film but it is quite an entertaining view for 63 minutes for those of us who are hardcore fans of trashy films.
Pet Sematary (1989)
A pet isn’t just for life
Okay, so it is not a film solely about cats, but it does feature, as an integral part of the story, a reanimated, scary looking zombie feline.
The Creeds move from Chicago to small town Maine. They live in a beautiful house, but there is an extremely busy road outside their house which their elderly neighbour Jud warns them about. After Louis Creed (the father of the family who is a doctor) saves Jud’s wife when she has a heart attack, Jud takes Louis up to an Indian cemetery for ‘thanks’.
The Creed’s beautiful British Blue cat Church has been run over and Louis buries him in the cemetery as he can’t bear to tell the kids that Church got mulched by a passing vehicle. The next day, Church returns. He acts flat and a little bit ‘dead’ according to Louis. He insatiably hunts birds and mice but just rips them apart savagely and doesn’t eat them. He smells terrible too.
So Louis knows it is not a good thing to have done this. A couple of months later, his toddler son Gage dies on the busy road and a grief crazed Louis buries him at the cemetery. Gage reemerges as a murderous, malicious little zombie turd who kills people (including his own mother). Louis loads up on morphine syringes and it is good night for Church and Gage.
Stephen King actually wrote the book from personal experience. He once lived by a very traffic filled road where lots of pets in the vicinity were killed on. There was a real pet cemetery beside where he lived and his daughter buried her cat Smucky there. This gave King the inspiration for the book but he thought he had gone too far with the story and filed it away somewhere. His wife and Peter Straub had to convince King to submit it for publication.
Pet Sematary is not solely based on zombie cat horror mayhem, with the ultimate story focusing upon Gage’s reanimation, but Church is a pretty freaky animal whenever he is resurrected in the cemetery. Louis Gage should have known better than to stick his son in the graveyard after seeing what happened to Church the cat. However, I suppose grief does strange things to people. Pet Sematary is an excellent film – a really great adaptation of King’s novel. And it does feature a scary cat which is incidentally on the front cover of the DVDs. So I deem it a partially scary cat.
The Black Cat (1981)
When you hear this cat breathing down your neck… Start praying…. Before you say Amen… You’re dead.
Pretty good murderous cat effort from Lucio Fulci which is extremely loosely based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story of the same name. It is no masterpiece from the great director, but at the same time, it is quite charming in its eccentricity.
Robert Miles, Professor of Literature, can communicate with dead people. He also has the ability to control the mind of his cat (which is obviously a black cat). He uses kitty to attack people who have wronged him. A photographer spies cat scratch marks on the deceased victims. She pays a visit to Professor Miles and tells him her suspicions about the cat and its role in the recent deaths. The cat is not enamoured of this and seeks to assert its dominance over the Professor by controlling his mind instead…
It is very hard to make a scary cat movie based on the fact that you could probably kick the crap out of them, more than they hurt you. Fulci does a good job of making the black cat menacing in its approach to the victims, and therefore you could semi-believe that the cat could inflict mighty damage to a person. The film benefits from an excellent performance from Patrick Magee – his last film role – as the deranged professor. The movie is more atmospheric than gory (Fulci’s trademark) and makes great use of its English locale. The best bit is when Patrick Magee goes to strangle the cat – that is a very exciting moment in the film, giving Magee ample opportunity to ham it up. One of the few scary cat movies that is not utterly unbelievable.
The Cat People (1942)
She was marked by the curse of those who slink and court and kill by night.
Oliver Reed meets the mysterious Serbian lady Irena painting a picture of a black panther in the zoo. It is a coup de foudre and she invites him back to her apartment for tea where he sees a strange statue of a man on horseback wielding a skewered cat. Irena tells Oliver that back in her native Serbia there is a race of cat people who were driven into the mountains. Her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and animals act weirdly in her presence. Could Irena be one of these mysterious catpeople?
A fabulous collaboration between producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur, The Cat People must rank up there in the all time horror greats in terms of atmosphere, stylishness and cleverness. It relies upon suspense to frighten the viewer – no overt gore or special effects – but it still has its power to chill the viewer. The film is technically perfect when we look at Tourneur’s skills as a director, he can really create a mood that is like a cat – swift, edgy, neurotic. We never see the cat in the film because everything is filmed with shadows, suggestion and darkness. We definitely know that Irina is a cat woman – it is never seen but the picture firmly implies it. A ground breaking classic that stands head above its ‘murderous cat’ film brethren. There was a remake that was meh.