Directed by Lewis Teague. Starring Drew Barrymore ("Our Girl", "Amanda"), James Woods ("Dick Morrison"), Alan King ("Dr. Vinny Donatti"), and Kenneth McMillan ("Cressner"). Rated PG-13.
Source: Region 1 DVD (Warner Home Video)
Running time: 01:34:12
A while back, myself and Francisco of The Film Connoisseur did a list right here on The Death Rattle of our favorite horror anthologies, and on neither of our lists was Stephen King's CAT'S EYE. I don't know what the fuck I was smoking because this film would easily be on the list, but then again I hadn't seen it in many moons and simply didn't cram it before putting my end of the list together, hence why I tend to avoid doing lists as much as I used to: my mind changes a lot and my memory is pretty bad. Anyway, famed producer Dino Di Laurentiis apparently wanted to make a film that served as a platform to showcase a young Drew Barrymore at the time, and Stephen King was looking to direct his first film with the help of Dino (which came a year or so later in the form of MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE), so a deal was struck between the two and thus CAT'S EYE came to be.
As with most horror anthologies, CAT'S EYE features three segments (two of which were adapted by King himself from his own literary works, and one of which was written specifically for the film), except in this case they're tied together by a stray cat who's on a journey to save a young girl (Barrymore), with whom he communicates with telepathically or something. Right off the bat, we get some cool little nods and references to Stephen King lore when both Cujo and Christine make cameos in the opening credits. In fact, it's because of filthy-ass Cujo that the stray cat in the film is chased out of town and embarks on its journey.
The first segment is reminiscent of an anti-smoking TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE episode, and in it a man by the name of Dick Morrison (James Woods), for the sake of his wife and young daughter (also played by Barrymore in glasses and a brown wig), attempts to quit smoking with the help of an organization called Quitters Inc. Turns out the organization is almost like a mob with a very hands-on approach to dealing with their patients, as evidenced when the head of the program (Alan King) basically threatens Morrison with violence if he chooses to continue smoking. When it comes to the penalties, there's actually a lot more to it than Morrison getting roughed up by the organization's goons should he choose to light up, but there's really no point in spoiling some of this segment's surprises; I'll just say that the penalties get progressively worse with each cigarette he smokes, and I'll leave it at that.
With the smoking segment, a set of ridiculous consequences are established, and you're just waiting to see if James Woods slips up. Admittedly, the sicko in me didn't quite get the pay-off I was looking for, but it's still the best segment of the film for a few reasons, namely James Woods's performance and an excellent use of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" that makes perfect sense given the circumstances. You also get a cool wink-wink nudge-nudge ironic ending with this one, which is typically the ideal way to end any segment in a horror anthology. From there, we go to the second segment, which takes place in Atlantic City. A high-stakes gambler has his goons beat up and capture the man who made an attempt to run off with his wife, and so the gambler makes him a deal: walk around the ledge of a high-rise building; if he wins, he gets paid a large sum of money and gets to leave town with his wife, and if he loses, he dies. In my opinion, this is the weakest segment of the three because you're basically just watching someone try to balance on the ledge of a building, but at least there's a decent pay-off and twist ending that make up for it.
Do you ever watch a movie that you haven't seen in many years and find that the most random thing will stick out and trigger an old memory? Well, for me, it was a part in the second segment where the lead character's ankles were getting pecked at by a pigeon (or a "flying shit-house" as the character hilariously puts it) as he attempted to stay balanced on the building's ledge. Of all the wacky shit in this movie, I'm not sure why that stuck in my mind all these years. Weird. Anyway, the third segment finally sees the stray cat reach its destination. You see, the cat sees visions throughout the film of Drew Barrymore's character, who gives the cat vague instructions that eventually make sense once the third segment happens.
Apparently it's the cat's destiny to locate and protect a little girl (Barrymore), but from what? A little troll that lives in a wall and terrorizes Barrymore's character at night, that's what. As opposed to being the common thread that ties the segments together, the cat is basically the lead character in this segment, which is strange but it kinda works and portrays the cat as a hero of sorts. In fact, there's a subtext throughout the film that essentially portrays cats in general as mystical creatures with strong psychic powers rather than lazy furballs who only exist to eat, shit, take naps, and scratch the shit out of your furniture. I have to wonder if Stephen King is a "cat person", but one can only speculate.
Honestly, I found the third segment to be kinda boring, but it's still not bad by any means. It's the logical story to close out the film, but it's also hard to follow the excellence of the opening segment, so you just have to take it for what it is. Again, I like how the cat was given something to do in the third segment, and the little troll creature would easily be very high on a list of my favorite "tiny terrors" from horror movies - it's amazing. Also, the fact that the troll is wearing a little jester's hat for seemingly no reason makes it that much more awesome.
As a whole, CAT'S EYE is a well-written and well-produced slab of 80's horror nostalgia, and aside from some of the music and dated special effects, there's not much that prevents the film from being timeless. There's a certain amount of black humor present that Stephen King was so good at, and there are brilliant callbacks throughout the film, be it portions of the film referencing earlier segments, or subtle things that reference scenes or bits of dialogue that didn't initially seem noteworthy. For example, the aforementioned Police song once again turns up in the final segment during one of the best scenes in the film, and it was then that I pretty much fell head over heels in love with this movie. Even despite its problems, CAT'S EYE is a good time and one that I'll be revisiting on a semi regular basis from this point forward.