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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Hoardefest - Cathy's Curse

Okay, seriously, even by 1977 standards, this one's a stinker. Can you scream cash-in! with me?

Take your pick which one Cathy's Curse rips off more: Carrie, The Exorcist, The Possession of Joel Delaney, Burnt Offerings, The Omen, The Other, hell, even The Bad Seed!

You can take your assurances when you buy one of those mondo packs of horror or sci-fi films you're going to have sit through more than your share of slop. In this instance, I found a 50-pack of films which I grabbed strictly for the inclusion of Peter Jackson's late eighties gore romp Bad Taste and the classic Deep Red, plus a few others including I Bury the Living.

The gentleman I am, I handed over the set to my wife and invited her to pick the inaugural viewing from this mega package. She's real keen on haunted houses, possessions and children-from-hell flicks, which is exactly what we got with Cathy's Curse.

First off, shame on the manufacturers of the more-recent single release of the film on DVD and its grossly misleading cover. Don't expect to find a subtly-hot Goth chick ala The Craft or even Return of the Living Dead 3 in this film. No, you get seventies hair bobs and a freaky-ass blond preteen (though written as a seven-year-old), Cathy (Randi Allen) who gets possessed by the aggrieved spirit of a pissed-off aunt who was killed in a car wreck at a young age herself. Funny how Cathy and auntie look hauntingly the same, eh?

It turns out Cathy's daddy George Gimble (Alan Scarfe) was abandoned by his own pappy and sister, both of whom, as previously-stated, get snuffed in the film's intro. Years later, an adult George returns to his family estate with his nerve-shattered wife Vivian (Beverly Murray) and his otherwise happy-go-lucky daughter. Why? Hell if I know, either, since he has an important construction job, so you can't use the last-minute destitution ploy.

Cathy explores the European-thatched cottage-mansion and stumbles upon a beat-up rag doll which, guess what? Contains the cheesed-off spirit of her aunt! You can figure out what happens next as various cast members (including the Doberman "bitch" which is smarter than anyone else in the movie) bite it or get scratched and threatened with gross bodily harm. At least Cathy's Curse introduces a psychic into the plot, which is one of the earlier attempts to bridge mediums into horror yarns. Still, her inclusion is almost pointless here.

Also known as "Cauchemares," Cathy's Curse simply reeks from flaky performances, faux shocks including Cathy's potty mouth (the most famous being "your mother's a slut!") and terrible synthetic sound effects to convey floating telekinesis. You can picture some bored sound man dragging his finger dumbly across a keyboard as the wires hoist Cathy's dolly across the room, Jesus wept...

And that slight tilt of the doll's head? Amateurish, but kind of effective. The glowing eyes in the auntie's picture? Creepy for its time, assuredly. The sequence where Cathy gets the caretaker drunk and imposes a nightmare of snakes and tarantula upon him is shivery, but stupidly out-of-place. In other words, director Eddy Matalon tries too hard to mingle different elements of horror films before his and it comes off terribly disjointed. It's to the point you really don't care if you doze off at the end, even if there's a Father Karras to bash through the door with a golden crucifix in his mighty paw.

Randi Allen is the highlight of the film as she's genuinely annoying. Her stone face is downright unnerving, particularly if you're already parent to an unyiedling, stubborn child. Her possession is, well, equally unbending yet cardboardish. This one may be better than Exorcist II: The Heretic, but that's saying nothing.

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