I continue my Halloween week posts with a horror movie that is not cheesy. I find that oddly appropriate for a Wuss-out Wednesday.
I DVR’d Cat People (1942) with high hopes. When I learned it was a low-budget, independent film, that sounded even better. When Robert Osborne said in pre-movie commentary that it was part of their series about monsters who needed a little TLC from the opposite sex, I hesitated. Then again, Bride of Frankenstein falls into that category, so I said, “Bring it.”
It turns out Cat People is one of those movies that rises above its limitations to present a scary, suspenseful story. There are no special effects to speak of, but shadow and suggestion are used with excellent results. So with my usual Spoiler Alert, let’s get started.
The story centers around the marriage between a fine young man (at least, I don’t think he’s so fine as things turn out, but that’s getting ahead of myself) and a mysterious foreign girl. The two meet in front of the panther cage at the zoo. The girl will return to this site as her life goes downhill. The zookeeper tells her the panther is evil and quotes Revelations in support of this. That rather impressed me. I know very few people who can quote from Revelations. He quotes one of the scarier passages, so that is some nice foreshadowing.
More foreshadowing happens when the young man tries to gift the girl with a cat and the cat hates her.
Pause for PSA: Don’t randomly give people pets! First make sure (a) they want a pet, (b) they are able to care for a pet, and (c) they are not cursed from some ancient foreign village thing. Back to the movie.
They trade in the cat for a bird, after every bird in the shop expresses fear and loathing of her. Fighting fate, she says she is certain the bird will love her and vice versa. No more about that bird, because you know how I hate to see an animal come to a bad end.
So the Girl tells some scary stories of the village she comes from and expresses the fear she could be cursed. When an evil-looking, vaguely feline woman greets her as “sister” at their wedding party, the Girl’s fears increase. We never see the evil-looking one again, which of course was a disappointment to me. I greatly prefer a thorough-going evil monster to a conflicted, unhappy, cursed one. Then again, I’m trying to talk about the movie I did see, not lament the one I wish I had seen.
Young Man pooh-poohs his new wife’s fears, and they are off in pursuit of wedded bliss, which naturally eludes them.
I blame the husband, and not just because I’m a girl. You should never pooh-pooh your spouse unless he or she is clearly hoping to be pooh-poohed. Young Man goes on to make a number of stupid moves regarding the attractive, all-American woman he works with, arousing his wife’s jealousies.
Things soon start to get creepy, but Young Man still insists the fears are pooh-pooh-able. He gets the Girl a psychiatrist instead of a priest or exorcist or lion-tamer or somebody.
There are a couple of really scary scenes utilizing footsteps and lighting. The body count is not high, and there are no gruesome scenes of the cat slashing away. I call that making a virtue out of necessity, because it turns out to be a pretty satisfying Halloween watch.