When I saw the movie poster of ‘Cat’s Eye’ (1985) on Amazon prime, I was at first hesitant to watch it because it showed the stereotypical association of the cat as a witch’s familiar or something to that nature of foregone horror repertoire. But perhaps I was more afraid of what I would see and reconcile to the stereotype that the cat could not be the dog. Despite all of the phantasmagorial display of the flights of thought, the cat of the poster’s uncanny resemblance to my seven-month-old tabby Toro won me over the resistance. I rented it for Saturday Afternoon Home Cinema with the expectation which was akin to curious Alice in Wonderland. Be it ever magical or bewitching in a softly purring way, the result is one big wonder conflated with doses of warmth and mirth, whimsically betraying the genre classification as horror and the writer’s Craft of Gothic Fantasy like you never knew.
‘Cat’s Eye’ is a threefold anthology film based on Stephen King’s short stories, the first two from his “Night Shift.” King wrote the last story, especially for the movie. It tells a story of a traveling cat who comes upon three separate incidents during his search of the mission to save a life from danger, as annunciated by a spectral girl. In the first two stories, in which the cat takes an incidental role of witnessing human frailty and duality of evil and good, he goes by the names of “The Kitty” and “Sebastian,” showing the characters of the name doners per se. And who says that the cat is a harbinger of destruction as witch’s familiar? He is the judge of the character as if taking in the sun God Ra’s appearance, who was said to be meowing during what he was doing, representing the sun’s benefits for life on Earth in the Book of the Dead. Kitty and Sebastian do not directly intervene in the characters’ fates in the first two stories. It is the third story in which the cat takes charge of the narrative as the main actor with the name “General” on the stage.
Stephen King is known for his excellent story-telling skills combined with supernatural and psychological elements of lonely and misunderstood characters with wounded hearts dealing with their enemies in extraordinary situations. In the tradition of Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ernest Hemingway, King’s narratives are always free from a baroque figure of speech with florid adjectives and complex sentences that flaunt the ego of an unapproachable writer on the mighty throne of English Literature. That is why King’s stories are attractive and widely acclaimed because they deal with the ordinary lives that are not ordinary when seen in close-up. That alchemical ingredient gleams through this movie, showing how our lives are vicariously interrelated, weaved by multiple strands of contemporary life that we all live now through the cat’s eye. Herodotus, the father of western narrative history, knew the connectedness of separate human lives and combined them into one vast story of humanity employing parataxis, individual narrative accounts’ integrity. King’s “Cat’s Eye” follows Herodotus’s narrative trail.
The movie’s real star that brought the fiction into reality is undoubtedly the tabby, whose performance is so wonderfully natural and deeply impressive that it eclipses the human cast’s performance. And yet, there is no credit for the feline star without his real name and a shred of information. He is now long gone, but then I see my tabby Toro at home and wonder if the actor cat might have been his great-grandfather because of the striking physical resemblance and reflective demeanor. But then I think anyone who has a tabby may be delighted to feel that way because otherwise, King might not have written for this film charmingly, which is unusually lovely with high paws.
Invitation, Manifestation, and Escape are typical acts in horror movies from ‘The Exorcist’ to ‘The Changeling’ and to ‘The Others’, all of which are supreme ones of the genre, demonstrating the genuine scare is without a masked slasher on a killing spree that seems to revive forever like a Phoenix. But what about ‘The Boy’ (2016)? The movie is a lackluster flick, a smart apprentice of the masters mentioned above but without depth and breadth of knowledge of the essence of things, natural and supernatural.
It follows a young American woman with a past named Greta (very German or Grimm maybe?) hired by the overtly strange elderly couple as a nanny to their little son Brahms (possibly Bram Stoker?), a porcelain doll. As in Kubler-Ross’s Stages of Death, she shocks and denies, then accepts that she is a nanny to the doll. Of course, pretty Greta is not lonely because a young, good-looking grocer named Malcolm courts her as politely suavely as an English can be. Then Greta’s ex-lover Cole, who is the epitome of big, rough, and domineering man, suddenly manifesting from America in the English mansion, demanding she should leave for the states in the morning with him. And that’s not the end, for we are rudely introduced by a third character (or the same?), and the stupendousness of the story swivels in the flashes of screams, blood, tears, etc.
Watching this movie last night on Netflix made me think that the classic horrors of the 70s and 80s were indeed long gone and would not revive – at least for now. What begins as a classic supernatural story ends as a tepid escapade from one big mess. Greta’s coming to England is loosely explained, not to mention Cole’s sudden appearance in the English countryside manor is abruptly shoehorned into the story, breaking the thread of subplots, changing the atmosphere of the movie into a thriller that is not supernatural at all. Nevertheless, Lauren Cohan’s performance as Greta is commendable for her naturalness and arduousness in portraying her role that is the only gem of the movie that makes it watchable without turning it off.
Maybe I am either anachronistic or fastidious in selecting horror movies because of my propensity for subtle but incredible supernatural thematic elements without monsters, deformed humans, or amorous lovers. So be it. It’s all about how a story is intelligently and entertainingly told on the screen with minimum special effects, gore scenes, love scenes staging in either big swanky English country houses or big deserted mansions that are conveniently used as thematic elements. Reading the background information on this movie, I have noticed that there are quite a few production companies involved in making it. Would it be the reason for turning this otherwise excellent thematic element into a dull child’s play? Did all the companies know a thing about a movie not in monetary terms but art for art’s sake? I wonder.
A critic, according to Abraham Lincoln, has a right to criticize, but has a heart to help. Being a critic requires erudition drown upon a wealth of reading combined with a natural sagacity grown from enriched humanity wielded into an alchemy of words. A good critic with a poet’s heart guides the public with a lantern lighting the artist’s labyrinth in his world and helps us see the unseen in the far corner of a maze with a wealth of knowledge, sans arrogance of intelligence as Roger Ebert.
Unlike his other contemporary peers, Ebert was liberal in views, conservative in beliefs, and fair in judgments, the commendable attributes shared by Samuel Johnson, a 17 century English social/cultural critic, essayist, and dictionarian. He wrote a public in his mind and showed no peremptory atmosphere typically attributable to influential critics showing off their mastery of language not accessible to all due to their expensive private high education. Once Ebert trenchantly criticized a specific movie for its crude violence, abject dystopian portrayal of reality, and shuddering absence of humanity. The director of the film remonstrated with him in a public letter that Ebert’s criticism ignored the fact of life, which is akin to earthly circles of hell. Ebert replied to the director that if that was how he looked at the world, then it should not be forced upon the audience’s minds, exerting his raw and one-dimensional creation of reality upon the sentiments and judgments of the audience. Ebert believed that the world was worth living because there’s hope among the odds to sparkle before our eyes with joy flitting at our sides. This belief should be an essence of Arts that gives off beauty, pleasing to our senses that grows into reason. That is the purpose of arts, to which film belongs.
For this reason and my kindred perspectives on films in general, I miss Roger Ebert, although his writings are perennial. He didn’t grandstand with politically charged views on movies. He believed ‘Art is for Art’s Sake’ because films and books and paintings are not to be used as propagandas for a specific party ideology but to be appreciated for the minds’ food. W.H Auden said of his duty as a poet in society was to defend the use of language. I think Roger Ebert as a film critic in society was to defend the use of film as art to give life a shape.
“The Entity (1982)” is an American film based on the real-life event of Dorothy Bither, who was habitually raped by evil spirits that followed her everywhere. In the movie, Dorothy is Carla Moran, a young, intelligent single mother of three whose life becomes a Circle of Hell incarnate on earth in which she becomes a sexual slave of the unseen unclean spirits. Despite the physical signs of attacks, her well-meaning but over-zealous psychiatrist Dr. Phill Sneiderman believes that her unhappy childhood and different anfractuous life experience generate the mind’s play. He then forces his belief into her with a superior sense of academic and professional pride, even if her children have witnessed supernatural powers are attacking their mother. Carla catches at straws in the form of parapsychology to set herself free from the demonic forces, even if the help is not entirely altruistic and may turn on a full circle of violation of her body, her heart, and her spirit.
The film agrees to the truth on the supernatural essence of rape by portraying Carla as a woman of diligence, intelligence, and heart who goes to a secretarial school at night for a better future. Her love and affection for children are filled with kisses and smiles, even to her head-strong adolescent son. Her childhood memories and paths she treaded upon thus far might have been labyrinthine, but just because you have past wounds doesn’t mean you are stigmatized for the malady of the heart forever. Dr. Sneiderman’s attitude toward his patient Carla is reminiscent of the late Victorian and early 20th-century institutionalization of women with checkered lives, the victims of violence, into crudely primitive asylums where any sane person was sure to lose a reason before long. However, Carla rejects her telltale testimony to the supernatural terror to be nothing but a tale told by a lunatic woman, full of sound and fury that means nothing.
‘The Entity’ is a classic movie of supernatural phenomena in the ordinary surrounding of Los Angeles, CA. What makes this film classic in its pure literary sense is the absence of gory scenes accompanied by shrill screams of overtly acted characters who know what will happen to them. Nudity is present in the film not as gratuitous scenes of repertories of box-office horror movies but as realistic segments of what and how it happened all. I initially avoided watching this film by its thematic subject of rape and its naturally subsequent psychological narrative analysis as someone craving for a true supernatural story without frequent staccatos of blood splashes and big sharp tooth. It was a low hope for high heaven when the film was impressively indelible in my mind after I watched it last Saturday. If you prefer watching 70s and early 80s supernatural films over slash movies after the golden periods of the genre, ‘The Entity’ will entertain your sentiment and satisfy reason. And remember this: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Don’t forget that.