Cat's Eye (1985) / Thriller-Horror
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, gore and some language
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Robert Hays, Kenneth McMillan, Alan King, Candy Clark, James Naughton, Charles S. Dutton (cameo)
Director: Lewis Teague
Screenplay: Stephen King (adapted from his stories, "Quitters Inc." and "The Ledge" from his book, "Night Shift")
Review published January 24, 2006
Cat's Eye is an anthology of three Stephen King short stories, two of which were previously published in print in the "Night Shift" collection, "Quitters, Inc." and "The Ledge". The stories are united by the appearance of a cat, as well as Drew Barrymore (Everyone Says I Love You, Scream), the stars of the third and final story. King fans will probably enjoy this little chiller more than most, as there are numerous in-jokes during the course of the film, including an appearance by a very Cujo-like St. Bernard and a very Christine-like 1958 Plymouth Fury. King himself would write the screenplay, while Lewis Teague (Alligator, The Jewel of the Nile), director of another Stephen King film, featuring a dog in that one, the aforementioned Cujo.
The first story, based on "Quitters Inc.", deals with a married man, Dick Morrison (Woods, Videodrome), signing up for a smoking prevention course where the methods employed by the organization are stringent, to say the least. If Dick is caught smoking by one of the firm's many spies, his wife or child will be abducted and brought in to the main office for some "shock therapy", while Dick only watches. The second story, based on "The Ledge", has a wealthy man (McMillan, Runaway Train) wagering with his wife's lover (Hays, Airplane!) his life if he can walk completely around on the narrow ledge of his high-rise penthouse once. The film's final story, a King original called "The General", sees a breath-stealing goblin on the make to snatch the life essence from the young girl (Barrymore) of the house, while the stray cat she is enamored of tries valiantly to help her.
As with most anthology films, the quality varies depending on the story, and on your tolerance and interest in them. The first chapter, "Quitter's Inc", is perhaps the least satisfying, primarily because the set-up of the film is the only good aspect, while the implausibility factor just about does in the rather silly plot. It seems a great expense for this organization to employ a variety of spies to monitor one man around the clock, particularly since it seems they have more than one client. Setting this aside for the sake of disbelief suspension, the ironic ending isn't particularly shocking or interesting.
The second story, "The Ledge", picks things up with an interesting, and funny, story that, while somewhat predictable, is enjoyable for the wicked tale that it is. In terms of overall enjoyment, it's probably the best of the three, although it seems many critics differ on this.
The third story, "The General", is more of a classic horror romp, with lots of special effects and scares, not dissimilar to Gremlins in its own fashion, although a bit sillier. It's not a very strong story, but the action does keep it exciting, with a particularly gory ending to it that is memorably funny for being so cruel.
Cat's Eye is far from must-see viewing, but King fans should find lots to like, and it offers a modest diversion for horror buffs. It's a bit clunky and scattershot, but still quaintly enjoyable as a mid-80s curiosity. The best acting of the film is by the cat, although the shock treatment and near-misses with the vehicles do have you wondering where the animal protection standards were. The least enjoyable aspect for me was the synthy Alan Silvestri (Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future) score, which definitely dates the film in a substantial way. Schlock filmmaking, but you may find this hokum endearing.
©2006 Vince Leo