Directed By: Lewis Teague
Starring: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King
Tag line: "Through the eye of the cat, a twisted tail of macabre suspense from the author of CARRIE, The SHINING and THE DEAD ZONE"
Trivia: This was the first Stephen King film to receive a PG-13 rating
I couldn’t help but smile during the opening scene of Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye, which pays homage to two previous movies based on the author’s work. Within moments of appearing on-screen, a tabby cat is chased down the street by a rabid St. Bernard (a la Cujo) and nearly run over by a red 1958 Plymouth Fury (which even sports a bumper sticker that reads “I am Christine”). It was an entertaining start to what proved to be a sometimes funny, occasionally thrilling motion picture.
Having escaped the St. Bernard by hopping into the back of a delivery truck, the cat ends up on the streets of New York City, where, after experiencing a vision of a young girl (Drew Barrymore) in need of its assistance, it’s picked up by an employee of Quitters, Inc., a clinic that helps smokers kick the habit. The newest client of Quitters, Inc., chain-smoker Dick Morrison (James Woods), is somewhat apprehensive at first, but after meeting with the clinic’s head counselor, Vinnie Donatti (Alan King), he realizes he has no choice but to immediately give up smoking. If he doesn’t, his wife (Mary D’Arcy) and daughter (also played by Barrymore) will pay the consequences. We next follow the tabby to Atlantic City, NJ, where it’s briefly adopted by a mobster named Cressner (Kenneth McMillan), who has a surprise in store for Johnny Norris (Robert Hays), the tennis pro who’s made plans to run off with Cressner’s young wife. From there, the cat hops a train bound for Wilmington, North Carolina, where it’s taken in by Amanda (Barrymore), the girl from its visions. While Amanda’s mother (Candy Clark) is none too happy to have a stray cat hanging around, the tabby quickly proves its usefulness when it protects Amanda from the devilish troll living in her bedroom wall.
Like 1982’s Creepshow (the screenplay for which was also penned by King), Cat’s Eye is an anthology, with a trio of tales that cover the gamut, from darkly humorous to downright disturbing. The first segment, “Quitters, Inc”, has its share of funny moments, starting with the lead character’s initial visit to the clinic, when Alan King’s Mafioso / counselor Vinnie destroys a pack of cigarettes by angrily pounding on them with his fists. Though not 100% comedic (James Woods plays it dead seriously, and the “penalties” for smoking while on the Quitters, Inc. program are quite severe), this story features more laughs than it does chills. Things get a tad darker in the 2nd tale, titled “The Ledge” (you’ll find out why it’s called that once you watch it), where poor Robert Hays is persecuted by Kenneth McMillan, who’s wonderfully over-the-top as the cuckolded husband seeking revenge. The third and final entry, “General” (the name Amanda gives her new pet cat), is as close as the movie comes to genuine horror, with a tiny monster reminiscent of the ones that tormented Kim Darby in Don’t Be afraid of the Dark. While not perfect (the ultimate showdown between the cat and the troll gets a little silly at times), this segment is the strongest of the three (though, truth be told, I enjoyed them all).
Those expecting a straight-up horror movie will likely be disappointed; even at its most severe, Cat’s Eye is more unsettling than frightening. But if you’re in the mood for a bit of macabre fun, Cat’s Eye will certainly give you your fill.