Saturday, October 15, 2011

Here Kitty Kitty Kitty...

Stoked by the powers of erotic desire and sexual curiosity brought on by a lack of experience, a young woman in her 20s is haunted by dark dreams. They are not nightmares, though-instead they are flashbacks to an earlier time and they reveal an ancient prophecy, clouded in mystery, yet eventually revealed. It is a destiny where one reverts literally to a primitive animal state that is also quite violent, where people turn into large leopards, hungry for blood.

This is the eerie nature of Cat People, a 1982 film that was a very loose remake of the 1942 classic by the same name. Unlike the original, this version is more clear and explicit, however in being relatively unsubtle its just as intriguing as the original was. Due to the Hollywood censorship codes the 1942 version was only able to suggest and or hint at its strong sexual overtones without showing anything on screen. Really all that the remake and the original have in common is that the 1982 version has a fantastic homage to the famous pool scene from the 1942 one, and that sex or the idea of sex awakens the animal within. Its interesting that 1982 saw two successful remakes of previous horror classics, as John Carpenter also remade The Thing that same year.

Through Malcolm McDowell's very sinister and creepy murderous character Paul, and Nastassja Kinski's Irena, his repressed and delicate sister, the film tackles the nature of sex and how it can even be used as a weapon. John Heard falls prey not only to Irena, but also becomes obsessed with her, at first finding her to be rather delicate and then later alluring and even dangerous. There are some elements of body horror here, but the film does not really dive into those and they are not important overall.

Naturally as in most horror movies of this type the problematic issue of loving someone who is either becoming a monster or is already a monster comes to a head. This film's situation has a rather unexpected and even shocking conclusion, one that I did not see coming. Filmed in a gorgeous visual style (orange is used quite a bit, here, as is red), and sporting a great score anchored by David Bowie's brilliant "Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)," which only further articulates the film's themes, Cat People is a worthy remake and a great addition to 80s horror, which is at times grossly underrated by the genre's fans.

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