Cat People (1982)

Cat_People_1982_movieRight from the beginning, this film seemed like a very interesting film, and in all honesty, it is. I’ve heard that this is a loose adaptation of an older film of the same name, but I’m not here to compare the two, especially since I find this one more interesting. This film tries its best to be a different kind of horror film, with a narrative centring on a kind of mystique, and with an approach that emphasizes on skin rather than blood. That being said, however, despite the director’s best efforts, the film finds itself in a bit of a bind in terms of direction. As a horror film, it’s way too subtle to yield any direct chills, which would have worked well alongside its subtler fare, but its biggest problem is the plot.

It opens with a scene that shows a woman being sacrificed to a leopard, and eventually transitions into the modern day setting, and for a time, the plot is pretty hard to follow. Eventually, you start hearing about the race of werecats, which explain the various leopard-related killings seen throughout the film, and even then, it’s a good concept, but it’s not executed very well. In this regard, I think this is because the film hides too much of what you might need to know. On the plus side, the film paces itself for long enough to create a level of intrigue that drives the plot forward. In a sense, the film is driven by mystique, and it’s filled with surprises along the way, including the film’s unexpected ending.

The characters deliver good performances, but they don’t do a lot to grab attention. The film’s two lead characters, however, outperform all the others in the film, delivering splendid performances that are often as slick as the feline forms they often assume. In a way, this illustrates the overall character of the film – slick yet animalistic. This quality is also illustrated in how the film presents itself. The production values are fairly standard stuff for their time, but the film truly shines when day turns to night. The film also sports a lovely electronic soundtrack that creates a nice atmosphere for the film. Of course, the film opens with the signature song “Cat People”, composed specifically for the film by David Bowie, whose music and vocals set a haunting mood for the opening scene of the film.

One other thing that interests me about the film is its blending of horror with erotic fiction. This approach attempts to bring out a sense of primal, animalistic energy, and this was even reflected on the film’s tagline (“an erotic fantasy of the animal in us all”). I’d say they’ve accomplished this with a lot of subtlety, to the point of it being artsy. I could also argue that the film’s use of nudity as a primarily symbolic element is another accomplishment, especially as it is contrasted with the sudden gore scenes. It’s very stylish and artsy, but it suffers because it’s too subtle, and if you look at it seriously, it tends to come across as quite ridiculous softcore porn.

  • Score: 68%
  • Grade: C
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