Stephen King's Cat's Eye is An Underrated Horror Gem! (Retro Review)
Author and Horror Icon Stephen King obviously has an affinity for Cats as there have been quite a few of his movies that either featured Cats as a pivotal plot device (Pet Sematary and Sleepwalkers) or in the case of 1985's Cat's Eye, the main protagonist.
Directed by Lewis Teague (Cujo and Navy Seals) this Horror slash comedy like 1982’s Creepshow, is another anthology comprised from three of King's short stories except for one that was originally written for the film, "Quitters, Inc.", "The Ledge", and "General." Each story revolves around a stray Cat who travels from the urban jungle of NYC the underworld mafia infused Atlantic City, NJ all the way to North Carolina in the supposedly "safe" suburbs which begins with our mysterious feline sees "visions" of a girl (Played by Drew Barrymore) pleading for help, almost similar to 1981's The House by the Cemetery. Each segment is unique and captivating in its own way as the cat provide a thread that ties the stories together.
While embarking on a rescue mission to save the girl the tomcat is abruptly captured by an assistant from the mysterious therapy clinic "Quitters inc”, then put in a cage and tormented with electric shocks coming from the floor to intimidate a client to quit smoking.
While this segment ends in a WTF twist, we see the Cat traveling via the Staten Island ferry towards Atlantic City New Jersey to which once again, he's in the confines of another lowlife, this time it's Mafia boss and Casino owner Cressner who kidnaps former tennis pro Johnny Norris (Robert Hays) then places a bet that if he survives navigating “The Ledge" he will grant his wife, Norris' lover a divorce. This segment was reminiscent of Creepshow's "Hold your Breath" which Hays previously starred in as a paramour being coerced into a dangerous situation by a jealous husband.
The best part of the anthology was saved for last. In "General” both the cat and Barrymore have a more prominent role as he finally meets the girl behind the apparition, but does he come to her rescue against a malevolent troll in time? The ending has a bait and switch moment that tricks the audience and it’s a great one that avoids your archetypal horror clichés. True to the author's vision, Cat's Eye plays as a dark comedy with few very disturbing elements such as, a habitual smoker receiving threats that his family would be killed or raped should he continue giving into his vices, a severed head, animal kill shelters and attempted suffocation of a child. And this was during the infancy of the PG-13 rating system, yet Teague managed to squeeze in a few timed suspense, chills, and some gore and topped with a needledrop that not only fit within its context (The Police's "Every breath You Take") but the needledrop itself kills someone or rather, something! The voice actor behind the murderous troll, is none other than "Megatron" himself, Fred Welker while Carlo Rambaldi (ET and Alien) was responsible for the creature's design. Composer Alan Silvestri of course, went on to score iconic films such as Predator, Marvel's Avengers and so forth.
Barrymore who starred in another Stephen King adaptation (Firestarter) delivered a credible performance as Amanda who pleads with her doubtful parents that the stray Tabby is innocent of killing her Parakeet and dispelling the superstitious myth that Cats suck the breath from out of sleeping children.There is speculation of Amanda being one of the Shining,if this is confirmed, then King was one of the very first to further establish his own "Cinematic Universe" prior to Marvel. Aside from Barrymore, the other breakout performance goes to the Tabby actors themselves were as convincing as they are adorable.
While not as scary or macabre as King's former anthology thriller, Cat's Eye measures up exceptionally as a spiritual successor. During the beginning of the film, Teague throws in several nods to King's films throughout the early 80's that only a fan can identify. Both visual and practical effects were impressive back then and still holds up in a landscape rife with CGI nowadays.
To be honest, I didn't know what to make of this movie during the first 10 minutes, but afterwards, as a fellow Cat lover, as with Mr. King, I rank it as one of the more quirky and clever horror films from Stephen's catalog and the eighties as well. While comparable to 1975's Trilogy of Terror, Cat’s Eye has its own persona that easily surpasses the made for television movie and in a certain kinda way, It’s a Superhero film when you factor in the Cat coming to save a young girl from an evil menace. And he has a super power as well. 😸
If you like this review, please consider donating to your nearest Cat shelter or better yet, adopt one. There are plenty of Felines that are in need of a loving home and companionship.
Shoutout to Kim for reminding me of this film which for some reason, I overlooked.