sadly, horror film anthologies have gone the way of stinkin'-dirty horror synth tracks: total '80s obscurity, half-priced book store bins, library friend day sales, thrift stores, blockbuster nostalgia, tacky blog sites that scour the cinematic refuse pile for such filthy cheap no-namers.
and right there at the bottom of the barrel, this nearly forgotten little screenplay from stephen king (who just released his umpteenth new novel since announcing retirement) ranks at the tippy-top of the horror anthology film chart.
CAT'S EYE cinematically illustrates three separate stephen king short stories, each starring the same telepathetic pussycat. the first two stories were originally published in king's first story collection, NIGHT SHIFT. the final piece was an original screenplay written specifically for a freshly potty-trained drew barrymore.
(ain't it strange how drew barrymore rocked way hard as a lisp-lipped child actor? it's like she's de-evolved over time. give me ALTERED STATES drew, E.T. drew, FIRESTARTER drew, IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES drew, seven year old youngest host of SNL ever drew over anything she's done in the past 15 years. the girl freaking topped out before age ten!)
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james woods plays a schmoe that wants to stop smoking, so he signs up for an extreme quitters program. the bit starts with the crazed quitters inc. CEO busting up james woods' cigarettes, and then he shows james woods a cat bouncing and pouncing on an electrified metal cage floor. james gets pissed about the fried cat paws and demands the CEO guy to leave the cat alone. then james woods says, "so if i smoke again are you going to put more cats in the electric cage?" and the CEO guy laughs and says, "no. your wife."
the CEO warns james woods that someone will be watching him at every moment. he tells him that he might see some of the stalkers some of the time, but he won't see all of the stalkers all of the time. that night james woods finds a bloke in his office closet, hiding behind the golf clubs and the rain coats - and he finds him right as he's lighting a cigarette!
king obviously wrote "quitters inc" as a commentary on his fight for sobriety. and because the story (and screenplay) are so autobiographical, king takes liberties to poke fun at himself and his own work through james woods' character. in a scene after james woods gets home from the quitters inc office, all stressed and disturbed from watching the cat's feet sizzle, he sits in his recliner, sipping scotch and watching THE DEAD ZONE, a 1983 cronenberg adaptation of king's 1979 novel by the same name. woods' wife startles him, causing him to spill his drink on his shirt. when he jumps and leaves the tv, his wife says, "aren't you going to finish your show?" and woods says, "no, i don't even know what they're saying. who writes this crap anyway?" classic.
quitter's inc. gets 4 charred pussy-foots out of 5. great short. better than most of the CREEPSHOW bits.
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so there's this high-rolling, big-betting, white-collar badass who finds robert hays (from AIRPLANE) running around with his wife. with the help of some hard-hitting cronies, the crime-lord kidnaps robert hays and says he wants to place a wager. the crime-lord says he knows about the skeezing around with robert hays. says that's fine, she's a good woman, a good looking woman. who wouldn't want her? then the crime-lord places the wager:
A) a big bag of heroine was just put into robert hays car. robert hays can walk out the door, get in the car, police will find him, and he'll spend his life in prison being some other crime-lord's wife. "When you get out, you'll be more worried about your arthritis than your libido."
B) robert hays can walk the entire perimeter of the crime-lord's high rise building on a five inch ledge. if robert hays succeeds the perimeter alive, the crime-lord will remove the heroin from robert's car, give him some ridiculous amount of money to leave town, and the crime-lord will throw in his wife, too. it's a good offer, if he can survive the walk around the building.
i won't give this one away, but it's got a super great ending. also heavy on the drug charges, drug avoidance, ultimate freedom equals freedom from drugs theme, which seems to be prevalent in king's writing at the time. THE LEDGE gets 3 ankle pecking pigeons out of 5. not as suspenseful as it wanted to be, but not totally dull either. a good yarn to stick plum in the middle of two great stories.
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untitled and unpublished before hand, the last short in this anthology was a real treat. the most basic synopsis i can give is this: a cat catches wind of a troll stalking drew barrymore; cat moves in with drew barrymore's family; mom thinks cat is a bird killer; troll comes out of wall at night and kills family parakeet; mom kicks cat out; dad tells drew barrymore that it's okay the cat is gone cause cats steal children's breath; troll keeps coming out of wall to steal drew barrymore's breath; thus, the cat's been framed TWICE; still, the cat knows this is happening, escapes his termination fate, and takes on the troll in a bitter paw fight that involves ceiling fans, muppet babies helium balloons, a Police vinyl on high speed, and a box fan. i will not tell you the end. i'll only tell you that this little short was freaking awesome. this is the kind of story children tell their parents, "a troll lives in my wall and keeps knocking my shit over in the middle of the night! you gotta believe me!" one of the better stephen king shorts i've seen.
the final short in CAT'S EYE gets 5 troll toothpick daggers out of 5. this is one of the best horror shorts i've seen on any anthology - CREEPSHOW 1 and 2 included.
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personally, i think we need more anthology films. let's cut the crap that fills most of these 90-plus minute films with gratuitous sex and partying and "tension building." let's cut all that crap and get straight to the story, straight to the precision perfect scares and disturbances.
overall, i give CAT'S EYE 4 pre-teen drew barrymores out of 5. i'm glad to own this one, even on vhs. seriously, if you love cats, if you love a pre-teen drew barrymore, if you hate cigarettes and electrified metal flooring and adultery and heroin crimelord cronies and pet euthanasia and wall-banging trolls as much as i do, then pounce on this film. we can only hope that stephen king's retirement produces a sequel.
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and this review of CAT'S EYE from brock at THE ROUGH CUTS on YouTube is worth the watching. i've got subscription to THE ROUGH CUTS. totally great reviews from a weird bunch of film addicts.