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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.34%
Worth A Look: 13.79%
Pretty Bad: 20.69%
Total Crap27.59%

2 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Cat People (1982)
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by dionwr

"Art-house pretension, served up steamin'!"
1 stars

Paul Schrader steps up to the plate to show you how NOT to make a horror film in this boring remake of a much superior work. He is under the standard intellectual delusion that fantasy needs to explained, when all it really needs to be is engaging to the imagination. He missed that by a country mile.

Having just seen the film again (it's just been released on DVD), I was reminded of how much I'd hated it when it was first released. It's interesting, though, to hear Schrader's commentary on it now, and realize he STILL hasn't figured out how thoroughly he screwed the pooch on this one. Dude, it sucks! Accept the fact!

The film is a remake of Val Lewton's "Cat People," from 1942. A man and a woman fall in love. but then the man discovers that the woman thinks she is under a family curse, and will turn into a panther if she ever has sex. And, as it plays out, you're left wondering whether she was as crazy as a bedbug, or if she really did turn into a panther when aroused.

But where Lewton figured out that the less he showed the more people would imagine, Schrader either goes for full-bore explicitness, which robs the story of any mystery, or he gets into elaborate set design and photography, which robs the story of any momentum. He also went for every bit of nudity from his female stars that could get, which is good, I guess, if you have a thing for either Annette O'Toole or Nastassja Kinski. But it's surprising that a film so intentionally lurid could be so boring.

If you're a student of how films are made, compare the two swimming pool scenes. They are, shot for shot, ALMOST the same--but the 1942 version is scary, and the 1982 version is not. In both scenes, a woman at a health club hears a noise and, frightened, jumps into the nearby pool. She is then trapped there by something which she can hear--but not see--that seems to be waiting for her in the dark at the edges of the pool.

For the 1942 version, the pool room had black tile to about three feet above the floor, and then white tile above that. So when the woman is in the pool, looking around, there is that black edge all around her where something *might* be hidden. In the modern version, the pool room is entirely white tile, and when you look around during the scene, you can clearly see that there is *nothing* there. Also, in the '42 version, the camera is closeup to the woman and at her eye level, just beside her in the water. Effectively, you're in the situation with her. But Schrader chose to have his camera above the woman, looking down on her. It doesn't make her look vulnerable, which is what I think he wanted. It makes it distracting, as you find yourself watching the bobbing of her tits in the water.

To make up for the lack of the storytelling ability and craft which Schrader seems to feel is beneath himself, he added lots of scenes of great design and photography and pseudo-poetical declamation. One such example is a dream sequence in which Malcolm MacDowell explains their family history to Kinski. It takes place in a hot orange never-never land with a color-coordinated tree draped with black panthers. When I saw it in 1982, someone in the audience giggled at it. I think he was on the right track.

There are lots of such moments in the film, and that's where it ends as well--John Heard ends up keeping Kinski, permanently transformed into a panther, in a cage in his zoo. It's very picturesque, and entirely laughable.

It could have been worse, of course. It could have been longer.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 09/05/02 19:09:59
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Horror Remakes: For more in the Horror Remakes series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell sexy bloody creepy 3 stars
3/29/16 Aj wales Watched years ago seemed great. Today still stylish and quite gory. Story a littlie bit dul 4 stars
9/14/11 Man Out Six Bucks Savannah scene was tight. Nudity is only unnecessary if she's ugly or you're gay 4 stars
10/07/09 Joise Cotton is a goddess It's alright, but Val Lewton's was better 3 stars
7/31/07 action movie fan good special effects but the val lewton film was more engrossing and scarier 3 stars
6/26/07 CODY a sexy suspense with movie with sultry scenes and great visual effects. 3 stars
2/22/06 UrbanLegend Andrew, Richard, & C.Thing must be gay..Kinski is HOT..Movie is sexy. 5 stars
2/04/05 Destruction Worker This movie is great. Very sexy with a great electronica soundtrack. You are all crazy 5 stars
7/08/03 Don Simpson J.R. superstylized, high octane erotica, great fxs and an even better electronic 80s soundtrack 5 stars
3/08/03 Jack Sommersby Damn flawed, yet you can't take your eyes off it. 3 stars
1/03/03 Tommy S you cant get the original on dvd but this crap gets the royal treatment? 3 stars
9/06/02 Charles Tatum Unscary, but enough nudity to keep it going 3 stars
2/04/02 Andrew Carden Horrible Movie. About 40 Minutes Of Unwwanted Nudity and A Horrible Screenplay. 1 stars
3/25/00 Richard Wright My god this film is stupid. Not scary, full of pointless nudity, this sucks to high heaven. 1 stars
3/15/00 Chrissy T Okay, Kinski lacks the body. This is sensual and parallels the Christian's belief. See it. 4 stars
3/11/99 Bats Very interesting imagery and storyline. 4 stars
2/23/99 Cool Thing Never understood why Kinski was such the sex symbol. She's a boy. 3 stars
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  02-Feb-1982 (R)


  02-Jul-1982 (MA)

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