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Thursday, March 30, 2017
I'd never watched CATHY'S CURSE until now, but I do remember seeing a TV spot for it way back in 1977 and thinking that the title sounded like some kind of weird Everly Brothers song.
Today, this charmingly quaint little Canadian chiller-thriller is one of those late 70s film artifacts that seem to foretell the kind of supernatural horror flicks that we'd be seeing all through the 80s when we weren't watching some unkillable stalker-killer slashing his way through a teen cast.
Much of what happens was already pretty familiar stuff at the time. There's a 1947 prologue featuring the violent deaths of a father and his young daughter Laura--the mother having just abandoned them, taking younger son George with her--whose spirits will return to haunt the living in the present day.
Those haunted are a family consisting of grown-up George (Alan Scarfe, LETHAL WEAPON 3, LOCK UP), his troubled wife Vivian (Beverley Murray) who's still recovering from a nervous breakdown, and their adolescent daughter Cathy (Randi Allen).
When they return to the old homeplace to live, we know pretty much what's in store for them, and it will involve Cathy being possessed by Laura's angry spirit and making life a living hell for everyone else--especially Vivian, since Laura, like her late father, tends to regard all women as "bitches." (George seems to be soaking up some of the old man's malevolent spiritual residue himself at first, but not much is made of this.)
French director Eddy Matalon has a lean, unfettered style and the cinematography has that chilly sort of starkness you often see in 70s and 80s Canadian cinema. The editing is rather jumpy at times, adding to a sense of unpredictability and illogic that seems to enhance rather than detract from the film's modest appeal.
Once settled into their new house, Cathy wastes no time switching over to "creepy possessed kid" mode with the help of a hideous doll with sewn-together eyes that she finds in the attic along with a glowing-eyes portrait of Laura.
This allows the writers to toss dashes of THE EXORCIST and THE OMEN into the stew albeit never anywhere close to the same intensity or fear level. In fact, most of what happens is more delightfully amusing than scary, and is at times downright rib-tickling.
This includes Cathy getting the old caretaker Paul drunk and then unleashing a gaggle of imaginary snakes and spiders on him, and sending a poor old lady who's babysitting her out an upstairs window by telekinetically launching that ugly doll at her. (The investigating police detective is familiar David Cronenberg regular Sonny Forbes, who played the bald black assassin in SCANNERS.)
There's a cool scene early on with Cathy reenacting Laura's fatal car crash with some neighborhood children while Vivian entertains two women, one of whom happens to be a medium. Her extreme reactions to a picture of Laura's father, jerkily intercut with Cathy's menacing behavior toward her playmates, are a hoot.
The main focus of Cathy's wrath, however, is poor, frazzled Vivian herself, who's in and out of the nervous hospital throughout the film. This allows Beverley Murray to emote to her heart's content, as when she's having a Calgon moment in the bathtub and suddenly finds herself awash in blood and leeches.
The rest of the film is a series of derivative but pleasingly off-the-wall "fright" scenes that build to a blandly diverting finale boasting some fun burn makeup for Cathy. Little Randi Allen, in her first and only film, is endearingly cute acting all menacing and scary.
The Blu-ray from Severin Films is 1080p HD full resolution with Dolby mono sound in English, French, Italian, and Spanish. English subtitles are available.
Severin once again offers a loaded bonus menu including an interview with director Eddy Matalon, a charming interview with grown-up Randi Allen and her mother Joyce (who worked in wardrobe on the film), a fannish audio commentary with critic Brian Collins and filmmaker Simon Barrett, a trailer, and more. The disc contains both the U.S. release cut and the longer director's cut.
CATHY'S CURSE never gets nearly as scary as it wants to be--in fact, I don't think it raises a single hackle--but for those who can appreciate this sort of thing, kicking back to watch it is one of life's simple pleasures. It's just the kind of relatively minor cult horror flick that's a throwaway to some, and a euphoria-inducing treat to others.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Release date: April 11, 2017