Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Review: Cat Sick Blues

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

Cat Sick Blues
Directed and edited by Dave Jackson
Phandasmes Video / Wild Eye Releasing Raw / MVD Visual
101 minutes, 2016 / 2018

D’jever have one of those pals or acquaintances who treated their pet with so much attention, it seemed a bit... unhealthy? You know, all their Facebook posts are pictures of them with the critter, or the beastie dressed up in some inappropriate costume that made you kinda feel sorry for the pet more than the owner? You’ve probably thought to yourself, they are just lonely and they need to find the right human person to connect with, right?

Matthew C. Vaughn
Ted (Matthew C. Vaughn, giving off a Norman Bates/Anthony Perkins meets Eb from ”Green Acres” vibe and look) is just such a person. After his cat walks over the rainbow bridge (though it’s body is in the fridge’s freezer), he has a shrine to it in his abode, and oh, by the way, kills women while wearing a cat mask and a cat-claw glove (references to Freddy K. are bound to turn up); don’t ask about the giant, spiked strap on dildo… He’s under the psychosis that if he kills nine people, one for each of the cat’s lives, he can bring it back. Yeah, Teddy-lad is not playing with a full deck.

As for Claire (Shian Denovan), her cat is a viral internet star until a sudden and brutal occurrence. She’s distraught, and it’s only a matter of time until cat fanciers Ted and Claire are bound to meet. Him with his creepiness and cat obsession, and her on the verge of a breakdown, they are two unhappy people with little in common other than Meow Mix and a filled litter box that is unemptied. Their relationship is more symbiotic than nurturing, but they are desperate people in need for companionship and comfort in some way, no matter how unconventional.

Shian Denovan
But these are two very disturbed people in actually very different ways. The path does not follow the usual Psychos in Love formula, I’m happy to say, and we are presented with wholly different and quite unexpected scenarios. Kudos to the writers for that.

This is almost a horror cyberpunk with Ted adding technology to his own physicality, doing a Marshall McLuhan by adding to his body parts to make them extensions of himself (I got me some ed-ju-ma­-cation, y’see). What he does with these devices is kinda what you’d expect if you are a fan of this kind of fare, as am I, and I’m grateful that the technique used is more strike than torture, in most cases. I mean, I was wondering if I would have liked the story if he had used the spikey dildo more often or less… of course I’m not even going to give a hint, but I was satisfied.

There are some quite stunning practical SFX in general, especially the head near the beginning of the film. That being said, the blood was a bit too bright red and watery, especially in certain cases, but I’m willing to forget that as it was quite enjoyable to see the gushing. Yes, this is a very graphic and wet film.

My big issue with the production was, believe it or not, the sound. Even without the Australian accents (yes, this comes from a land down under… sorry), a bit of the dialogue is hard to make out with the industrial Nosie soundtrack. Luckily this is not a dialogue heavy flick, so don’t let that stop ya.

Ted is an interesting character, especially the way Vaughn plays him. Sometimes he’s shy, sometimes he quite assured and confident, and other times quite neurotically out of his league. While not discussed, I’m willing to bet he’s on the autism scale. But he manages to set out on his goal to resurrect his purr. That is, when he’s not having grand mal seizures (I know someone who actually died of this), especially after a kill; perhaps it’s the adrenaline rush that triggers it. I realize he’s quite a sexual deviant (the story makes that quite clear), but I was a bit annoyed that all his victims were female, which is a bit of throwback to the bad part of the genre.

That being said, I found Claire even more interesting, even if she is not always likeable. Lovely Denovan plays her in many states of emotions and manic. While Ted may technically be the main character, I felt the film was more about her, the way she deals with multiple levels of grief, and how she works through the pain and fear.

Loneliness is another key factor throughout the film. Whether it’s the two leads, the members of a pet grieving group, Claire’s friend (attractive Rachel Rai), or a fan obsessed with Claire’s cat (Noah Moon), nearly everyone is alone on a substantive level. Even there is a physical connection between characters, it’s never on a positive emotional way.

There’s a nice interplay of reality and dementia, as both our protagonists go through their situations in various ways. But what struck me the most was the use of social media and technology throughout the film, be it feel good viral kitty videos or the dark web’s more sinister side. But what affected me more is how people are so casual about online (real) violence, and being looky-loos in the midst of it. The overall technological culture is a mass of sensationalist headlines and banality of viewing genuine ferocity.

Rachel Rai
Extras abound in this DVD release, so let’s get at it. In no particular order, to start there is the 10:07 short with the same name from 2013. Also starring Vaughn, I’m guessing this was part of the Kickstarter campaign to give the investors some peek of what is to come. A couple helps a masked Ted and he follows them home to a game of – err – cat and mouse. It could well have been a deleted scene from the main feature.

Another short black-and-white short film at 5:03 is “Kappa” (2012). An annoyed guy is asked by is kinda-slow roomie to watch over some Claymation birdlike creature in a box. Things go weird and, well, again, I’m not telling. It’s a pretty crisp looking pic.

Speaking of Deleted Scenes, there are five of them officially, ranging from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. I say “officially” because the first one is kind of a compilation of a few short bits. Yeah, it was good most of them were excised as they didn’t add anything to the story, but I was happy to see them, and honestly, there were a couple I would put back in. Take that as a compliment.

Next up is “Claws and Cat Cocks,” a behind the scenes documentary at a lengthy 35:15, shot by Lucas Haynes. Very grainy, it is footage of different scenes being shot. You get the impression that along with the hard work, the crew and cast both got along and had a bit of fun. Most of the focus is on Vaughn, understandably. My opinion of the featurette is that it was kinda meh, with not enough cast interviews or real direction. It really feels like just random shots with no fixed rhyme or reason other than being there. While I stayed for the whole thing, I fought the urge to skip around.

Other than a bunch of nice Wild Eye Raw trailers (including the one for this film), lastly there are two full length commentaries. The first is with the director (who also co-wrote), Vaughn (who is also a co-producer), co-writer Andrew Gallacher, and producer Taena Hoshi. Sometimes too many people on a commentary can get chaotic, but fortunately they are pretty even, though sometimes it’s hard to tell who is talking. The comments lean towards the creation, the cast, the characters and some technical bits, so it’s pretty interesting throughout.

The second one is more crew based, with the director and Toshi once again, plus five others. There are way too many to get anything substantive as they all talk over each other or are too far from the microphone, though you get they’re enjoying the group’s company. I ended up giving up after the third of nine chapters, at the 18 minute mark.

Back to the feature, the word that I’ve seen associated with it is ”surreal,” and there are definitely moments of that here and there, especially in the third act. It should be noted, however, that the story mostly follows a narrative, so the surreal elements don’t work against it. It’s a beautifully shot and edited film, and while it probably could have used a tad more trimming, it’s definitely worth the viewing.

The film doesn’t hit you over the head with any philosophy, but doesn’t shy away from it either. That’s just part of what makes this a nice entry into the genre from where women blow and men thunder (dammit! Sorry again!!).

Extra, unrelated video:

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