Cat's Eye (1985)
By: Trist Jones on June 2, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Universal (Australia). Region 2 & 4 PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. Portuguese Subtitles. 94 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Lewis Teague
Starring: Drew Barrymore,
James Woods, Robert Hays, Alan King, Candy Clark
Screenplay: Stephen King
Music: Alan Silvestri
Country: USA
Fan of Old School Stephen King? Tired of terrible telemovies, theatrical dramas or bastardised theatrical horrors? To my mind, the only decent Stephen King theatrical horror films have been Carrie and The Shining, and the impact of those films on horror fans is up and down across the board (perhaps less so with The Shining than Carrie), so you can imagine my surprise when one day, a much younger Trist went down to his local video shop for a horror fix, stumbled across Cat's Eye, became slightly dubious at the Stephen King labelling but tried it anyway and really, really enjoyed.

From the outset, it looks like a recipe for disaster. Young Drew Barrymore, James Woods headlining, Stephen King's name printed very clearly on the front (film track record clearly in mind) and a cat (animals I very much despise). But when you watch it, all of that is stripped away and you're presented with three very different Stephen King shorts, all tied together by the journey of a stray cat on a mysterious mission to save a young girl from an unknown force.

The first story, based on the Quitters Inc. short from The Night Shift compilation, sees James Woods as Dick Morrison, a man who wants to quite smoking. He ventures to Quitters Inc., a group he's been told are the best in the business, and signs on, only to discover the sadistic and violent lengths the group will go to to ensure their clients kick the habit for good. It's a tense and disturbing segment, playing really well on Morrison's desperation and paranoia. There's a particularly entertaining sequence of envents that starts with Woods crumbling in his car while stuck in traffic, the whole time inciting those internal "Oh, no's". Alan King and James Woods both turn in surprisingly good performances getting the film off to a pretty damn good start.

Quitters Inc. is then surprisingly one-upped by the following segment, entitled "The Ledge". Tennis Pro Johnny Norris (played by Robert Hays) is caught by Kenneth McMillan's Cressner (a gambling mobster) cheating with the mobster's wife. In a even more sadistic fashion than the first segment, Norris is forced to make his way around the entire building on the narrow ledge surrounding the penthouse floor, all while Cressner fires shots at him from the rooftop. It's a hilariously intense segment! There's a very dark streak of humour running through the segment, alternately alleviating and heightening the inherent tension, that plays out perfectly.

The final story, and bizarrely, my favourite (though I may be alone in this) has the titular cat finally ending up at the home of Drew Barrymore's Amanda. For some reason, Amanda has been getting sick and her parents aren't sure why. She blames a troll that comes sneaking into her room at night, so when the cat arrives, her parents allow her to keep it, hoping it will act as a guard against what they believe is a simple case of night terrors. Of course, we know better, and learn that a little troll (voiced by the legendary Frank Welker (Megatron!)) is indeed coming into her room at night and stealing her life, bit by bit, and that the cat (now called The General) is the only one that can save her. The special effects in this segment, though clearly a man in a suit, are pulled off incredibly well. For a low budget flick, the effects are genuinely believable, and that can probably be attributed to the production design and cinematography. The whole segment has been put together using all sorts of effects techniques, mainly oversized set pieces for the man in the troll suit and some fairly impressive blue-screening. Even the troll suit is surprisingly effective and remains to this day one of my all-time favourite horror movie monsters (this is sitting up there with Alien's alien).

If you can get past the somewhat farcical linking of the three segments (which isn't all that hard once Quitters Inc. starts) then you can fly through this film, even when the troll reveals itself. The cat's prologue is really the only jarring moment of the whole film, and was actually cut from the first screenings because the producers thought it was silly. Without that sequence though, the film makes no sense, so it's really a case of 'grin and bear it' for only a brief moment. Oh, and for those wondering how the cat is involved in the first two segments, I won't say anything for the first (or I'll ruin one of its more effective sequences), and the second plays out similarly with the cat being inadvertently caught by one of the segment's characters.

Be warned too, the film is extremely nineteen-eighty-four-eriffic! Everything from the hair and clothing, to the cars and music dates this film. You've got a ten year old Drew Barrymore and a terrible synthetic score, along with Sting's I'll Be Watching You featured heavily throughout to top all of that off too.
Video
The 2.35:1 transfer is spotless, which was a pleasant surprise given how dirty all the VHS versions I'd seen were. A surprisingly high standard of video quality for such a budget release.
Audio
Unfortunately the budget nature of the release has also resulted in a simple 2.0 English stereo track. It's a clean mix though.
Extra Features
Nothing but wishful thinking unfortunately.
The Verdict
Cat's Eye is one of those widely unseen gems. There's so much to like in this film that it's surprising it doesn't have more of a cult status… actually, it's surprising that it doesn't even have a status at all! I can't encourage enough people to go and check this one out. There's a very dark sense of humour running through the whole thing and when it's tense, it is tense. It's a definite shame that there wasn't more to the DVD, but when you can pick it up for less than ten bucks, there isn't really too much you can complain about. It's definitely a five star film, but the DVD isn't worth much itself. So based on the value for money factor (logic being "awesome film + bare-bones disc / bargain bin pricing") I'm giving it a four.
Movie Score
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