Spooktober 22, Day 23: Cat People (1982)

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, lists, audio, or video may also exist. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

Earlier in the month, I saw the first Cat People, loved it, and covered it for Spooktober. Forty years later we got another Cat People, this time directed by Paul Schrader which is wildly different. Of course, I had to watch it, and now that I have, I feel compelled to write about it.

source: Image Entertainment Inc., MCA/Universal Pictures 

Irena (Nastassja Kinski) has just arrived in New Orleans, meeting up with her brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell) who she hasn’t seen since they were kids. The film doesn’t really touch on where she’s been after their parent’s death, more than a brief dialogue, but it isn’t entirely necessary. This movie has some supernatural teeth and it doesn’t waste time before biting.

When a woman is attacked by a black leopard, it is then trapped in a hotel room and local zoo employees including zoologist Oliver Yates (John Heard), and Alice (Annette O’Toole) come to take it in. They bring the leopard to their zoo, and Irena finds herself drawn to it, where she also meets Oliver, who she falls in love with.

If you know the story at all, you’ll know that being intimate with another triggers the shape-shifting ability in an uncontrollable, bloodthirsty fashion. Something her brother Paul knows a lot about.

There are some callbacks to the original, including the diner and pool scene, with similar bones and ideas but warped into something weird and feral. It’s sexy, it’s sensual, and it’s strangely intoxicating. I found myself mesmerized at times by the texture of it, the horror, and the magic of watching Natassja Kinski, who is truly captivating. It also has some genuinely creepy scenes.

I totally dug how charged the movie felt, from its opening gorgeous scene to its end. Throughout the film we hear the music from David Bowie’s Cat People track, but not until the final shot do we get to experience it, and hear him belt out the lyrics.

I can see why some people may not love this version, and I try not to compare it negatively to the original, which holds its own in unique but varied ways. If the 1942 version was our quiet intro, the 1982 one is the loud, controversial counterpart. More violent and extroverted than its predecessor this is less thought-provoking, but more visceral.

Paul Schrader makes this movie his own and I found it to be intoxicating, strange, and at times horrific- a reimagining served with a side of mysticism that is certainly never dull.

Cat People is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s