Synopsis: A stray cat is the linking element of three tales of suspense and horror.
Stars: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Robert Hays, Candy Clark, James Naughton, Alan King
Director: Lewis Teague
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Stretching back to The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and even Alfred Hitchcock Presents, anthology series have been a popular medium for bigger name stars to lend their talents without making a huge commitment of a full length series. As anthology horror moved from the small screen to the big screen, the rules didn’t change but the limitations did. Now, free from network censors, these anthology series could be bloodier and bolder as they devised new ways of making us scream.
In 1985 there was no horror writer more popular than Stephen King and many of his novels had been turned into films. For the rest of the decade and onward every inch of King’s horror tomes would be ransacked and produced as feature films, television movies, or the occasional mini-series. What makes Cat’s Eye unique, then, is that it was written expressly for the screen by King himself. No writer adapted King’s often complex source novel and made it fit into a traditional cinematic structure so it was up to King to craft tales that would scare us into submission.
The resulting film was not quite what most people had in mind but still is recommended as an interesting product of the time and talent involved. While none of the tales are particularly scary, King has at least put forth three stories that are watchable and tied together in quaint and clever fashion. Using a wiley (and well-trained!) cat to weave the various tales together, King and director Lewis Teague (who also helmed King’s Cujo) start things off with several clever nods to previous King films. No less than five references are made in the opening moments alone and it’s a nice reward for King fans.
As for the tales of semi-terror themselves, well…they are a mixed bag. The first tale involves Woods as a smoker that finds a new method of quitting isn’t quite what he (or his family) bargained for. Woods and especially Alan King (no relation) are a hoot here and Woods is suited perfectly to his jittery role. The second story follows that time-honored plotline of a jealous husband inflicting his rage on his adulterous wife and her lover. I can’t quite look at Hays without thinking of Airplane!, though. The last tale features Barrymore and the cat as they battle a nasty creature that lives in her wall. Barrymore actually is featured in several recurring roles throughout the film…which, like the cat, makes for an unusual through-line. All are pretty standard fare that is elevated by King’s nice use of wordplay and not relying on monsters and ghouls. By being grounded in a semi-reality, the unnerving nature of several passages hit their mark and hit them well.
The main drawback to these types of films is that in their efficiency of storytelling, something can be lost. I never felt truly invested in any story…at least I wasn’t given enough time to feel like I could be drawn in. I knew the clock was ticking and that a wrap-up was just around the corner. Nothing really was unexpected because I knew there was no time to throw any major twists in.
Still, Cat’s Eye was a film I passed up for too long (like Wolfen) and am glad I finally had the chance to see. It’s a compact movie that provides the entertainment to satiate a rainy day need for light scares but may not be the full meal that gore hounds or rabid King fans crave.