The first Stephen King story written expressly for the scream.
It came to my attention midway through this year that I'm apparently a fan of some of the worst Stephen King movies. I mean, I liked the crazed door-knocking at the Overlook and the blood-drenched prom just as everyone else did - but apparently it's widely held by ratings that a giant evil rat in the cellar or wheelchair vs werewolf are all far less of a school assignment pass than I would have graded them. As usual though, I just take it as being more capable to enjoy things for what they are - and when i found out about a movie that dealt with cat-people who hate cats, I figured this should be good for some fun. Let's find out if this movie is as much of a catastrophe as people say.
This is a weird one. No holds barred, not saving that statement for later - this thing is cooking on plenty of cylinders, but I don't know exactly what it's engine is. We start out with what looks like the house of a thousand dead cats with some young girl mummy jump-screaming police officers even though I highly doubt that scream was for anything but the audience jump-scare. Now, that set's up quite a bit here - don't except to get super nightmares-for-weeks scared here, at best probably going to get a few of those seat vibrations as sudden loud noises get you a bit frightened. Also, expect to see some dead cats - albeit I'm sure they are all props and noticeably so at times, most of the impactful violence is mostly cat-grade war. From there, we pretty much hop straight into some game of thrones grades incest - even if it's actually weirder than that, and shot way more pg then anything on HBO probably ever has.
This feeling carries across the movie for quite a while, actually. Not the incest bit - although that does keep popping up constantly - but the "feels like a made for tv movie" part. From the general way events play out, how the movie itself looks quality wise, and even some of the music. I'm not going to say this is entirely a bad thing - it lets you have a bit more fun with things that otherwise would be detracting from a big-budget feel - but it's worth pointing out. Eventually though, it hits this point where it decides that more so than anything else, it wants to be a monster movie for Christmas and just unleashes the crap out of the blood and violence and costume effects. On the bright side, this makes for a way grander feeling ending then if it was more spread out, although it doesn't do itself any favors in combating that made for telly feel.
The plot is interesting enough, albeit something we've seen some form of variation on one way or another when it comes to monster movies. The cat-people being in touch with all these mystical powers like deploying optical camouflage on themselves and their car seems a little strange, but it's a fantastical creature so you don't really think that hard about it - and the movie presents it as something that really takes some effort to do, which helps explain why it doesn't happen constantly. By far, the weirdest bit of the plot is the fact that a cat-person's main weakness is being scratched by cats. I'm not saying it's far pitched or anything - heck, there's humans who are allergic to water and that stuff makes up most our composition - just that it feels more like a humorous cats are jerks in-fighting comment. Admittedly, my favorite part of the plot is more than half way in, when suddenly the movie feels a little bit like John Wick, if it just happened that he were turned into a cat and his dog a human. Who'd think a cat would actually steal the show as hero?
The actors don't do a terrible job. Some acting is more overboard than others - I mean, Ron Pearlman shows up towards the finale, if that can put it into perspective. The main crew plays out there parts and emotions relatively believably however, and the only thing that gets a bit distracting from the experience is largely in the cat-people side of thing, where they can get very dramatic or flip on a dime - although that's probably more how it's wrote than anything to do with the actors themselves. The cats that show up do some decent "acting" for what it's worth, although it's relatively easy to see some lazing about instead of doing whatever it was that was probably planned of them. There also happens to be a squirrel during the chase sequence that I doubt was acting, but will probably be more frightened than anyone watching this movie.
The effects department does a good job here. Yes, some of it certainly looks dated - in particular a few shots towards or in the finale. For the most part however, you'll be able to enjoy the presentation as it is, with the blood splattering efficiently when it gets that far, and the prosthetic parts looking relatively well assembled. There's a few parts where masks look off, and one scene where instead of "eating" it looks like one of the cat-people is just kneeling there with is head waving back and forth (perhaps that camera spin was an attempt to cover up how unconvincing it was?), but elsewhere the movie really finds it's stride. The general outfits are all nicely done, blending into the world without feeling out of place, and when the movie wants to shine is also one of it's parts that's the worst - the dead cats. I'm no fan of cats, but even I was taken a bit aback by the opening scenes tree of dead cats - although when plush cats start getting necks snapped or thrown about, I have to admit the realism dies enough that it can actually be a bit funny.
Audio is balanced well, and the soundtrack is enjoyable. There's a lot of personality here, for better or worse. The owner of our hero cat playing around with him telling him to "get the bad guy" in reference to the toy is amusing and although it can feel out of place when he then delivers a line that sounds quite ADR heavy to deliver the old f-bomb. Similar things happen from time to time, although the language and later violence is really the main thing that sets this apart from feeling like a for tv movie. The flow, the characters, the small setting and how it very often always feels incredibly empty all feel much more like a low-budget offering than a highly automated movie product, although that adds a little bit of charm (for some).
Overall, I was pretty amused. I guess my streak of enjoying the "terrible" King movies continues. Effects are pretty decent, although certainly show some wear and tear at parts - and that philosophy can really be said to most aspects of the movie. I'd almost wager that if the movie were to have focused more on the lead lady or perhaps the officer and his cat that it would have worked slightly better as a horror movie - as most of the main scares are sort of lost when you know by default that the two cat-people aren't normal people. The dread over what might happen to the main girl is still there, but it's not enough to really merit watching the movie because you want any good scares. Still, if you just kick back for some mystical cat-themed nonsense and a slightly cheesy good time, the movie is more than enjoyable enough. Maybe someday I'll go through and read a bunch of the King writings these movies I watch are based on and report back on how things are different - but for now, I can continue to be joyfully ignorant of how much better (or worse) they can be.