FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Sep 15, 2009

she's got a death curse...i think

Some people (you know who they are...I can't say anymore because they're watching me) claim that the 1977 thrilla from Manila Canada Cathy's Curse is a rip-off of The Exorcist. To compare the two films is like comparing a punch in the teeth to a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream; yes, they both have to do with the mouth, but that's where the comparisons end. Cathy's Curse and The Exorcist both deal with a child possessed, but other than that they've got precisely zip in common...and like a punch in the teeth squaring off against mint chocolate chip ice cream in a "What's awesome?" contest, only one option is enjoyable. Unless you're a masochist- which, considering the fact that on some level I did enjoy Cathy's Curse, I must be. This doesn't mean you should punch me if we ever meet, however- unless I ask you to. Which I won't. Unless I'm drunk...but even then, I won't ask you to hit me in the face, because that's my money-maker.

Here's the cockeyed set-up for the tale, which tells you...well, pretty much nothing:

Why we need a written intro for this, I have no clue- especially since we get the gist when the father speeds off into the night to find his wife, daughter Laura in tow: "Your mother's a bitch! She'll pay for what she did to you!" Before he can locate and, one assumes, beat the shit out of his estranged wife, dear ol' dad crashes the car. Flaming flames of fire engulf the car, killing dad and daughter.

In 1979 (yes, this 1977 film is set in the future!) George and family move into the house because...because...well, I have no idea why, as there was no narrative to explain that part of it. George is pleased because his daughter Cathy seems happy in their new digs, but his harridan of a wife finds his attitude...insulting, which gives way to some subtle, rich character development as she shrieks through gritted teeth (yes, that's possible):
Listen George, this is getting pretty ridiculous. You know and I know that I've had a nervous breakdown, right? Well, it's not hereditary and it isn't catching!
Some neighbors come to visit, and one of them just so happens to be a medium. She wastes no time getting her Madame Blavatsky on and going to town. She relives the fiery car crash, and it's none too pleasant of an experience. Still, when it's all over, she insists that they "must do it again sometime".

Meanwhile, Cathy has found a doll in the attic. Its eyes are sewn shut, and Cathy's mom keeps referring to it as a "dirty rag". No, it doesn't make sense...but don't worry! Nothing in Cathy's Curse makes sense.

The doll, it seems, once belonged to Laura. Apparently Laura has become eeeevil in her afterlife, for she possesses Cathy.

Now, on the surface, that's not so hard to digest; the devil, however, is in the details...and like Cathy's mom consistently calling a doll a "rag", the details in this movie defy all laws of everything in the history of ever, and none of it makes a lick of damn sense.

Infused with the mighty spirit of Laura, Cathy develops a bit of telekinesis. She stands there as objects fly around and crash into walls and a synthesizer makes a "peeeewwwwwwwww" sound. No one who witnesses these shenanigans seems to think this is unusual- least of all the housekeeper, who just cleans up the mess.

Cathy develops the ability to disappear and reappear at will, and her mother simply finds it annoying.

Like Regan in The Exorcist, Cathy begins using foul language once she's possessed, and boy oh boy...I curse like a sailor, but even I was taken aback when Cathy called someone a "filthy female cow"! The depths of depravity on display are astonishing- and to think, a child was forced to say these things!

I could go on and on with examples of head-scratchers. Sometimes, it's horrendous editing that leaves you wondering what the hell is going on, like when mom sits and zones out in the tub...but then the water turns to blood! Mom screams, and is somehow suddenly standing up, frantically slapping at what one can only assume are leeches.

Characters appear out of nowhere, only to vanish without an explanation, such as the scene where the medium shows up and stumbles into Cathy's Super Secret Possession Headquarters in the attic. Another old woman suddenly appears- she proceeds to insult the medium by calling her an "extra rare piece of shit", tries to make the medium swear she won't tell what she's seen in Cathy's Super Secret Possession Headquarters, and then...they scream together. WHAT?

Then, in perhaps the best moment of the film, the medium runs outside and promptly face-plants in the snow, never to be seen again. WHAT WHAT?

One wonders why Laura has decided to possess Cathy at all. Sure, she can make the requisite bugs, snakes, and rats appear at will, and a few people mysteriously die, but to what end? To what end, Laura's spirit? If she's trying to take revenge on mothers- those "dried up old whores"- everywhere for the slights of her childhood, then she doesn't do a very good job of it. One squandered opportunity, for example, comes when Cathy brings her mother lunch. As she waits outside the door, the food on the tray rots before our very eyeballs- surely that trick would freak out dear old mom! Instead, the food reverts back to normal and mom enjoys a lovely sandwich and apple.

Again I say: Cathy's Curse makes no sense. The big finale finds Cathy looking like a miniature extra crispy Lizzie Grubman, sitting on the bed clutching her dirty rag dolly. Mom walks in, grabs the doll, rips its eyelids open, Cathy is no longer possessed, the end. Seriously.

I find it hard to believe that this movie could get from the page to the screen without anyone noticing that it makes no GD sense. Cathy's Curse is a bit like having Mexican food as made by Chinese people, as I once did in Brooklyn (wud up, Happy Taco?). All of the elements were there: beans, tortilla, cheese, lettuce...but somehow it just wasn't right. It was missing that special something, whatever it is, that made me say, "Ah yes, I am having a bean burrito!" Cathy's Curse has actors, dialogue, and a semblance of a plot, but there's nothing there that makes me say, "Ah yes, I am watching a movie!"

And yet, as I noted earlier, I enjoyed myself in some way. Perhaps this is because on the surface of things, it felt like a real grindhouse flick: there was little violence, a mere few drops of blood, no stronger language than "shit"...but the cruddy film stock, all green-hued and scratchy, the jump-cuts, the horrendous acting, the supernatural 70s thang, and, of course, that cockeyed intro were like a comfy, stinky blanket I could wrap myself in. My very own dirty rag, if you will. I wouldn't say the film is so bad it's good...more like, it simply needs to be witnessed, like a two-headed baby in a jar.


deadlydolls said...

Yes yes yes! This was a childhood VHS fave that has never withered in my mind. It was also my very first blog review!
Bless those public domain cruising folks at Mill Creek for making it available once again. Looooove your post, especially the keen observation about young Cathy's resemblance to Lizzie Grubman!

Anonymous said...

I think we found the true inspiration behind Dolly Dearest.

deadlydolls said...

Okay, link tags confuse me and I'm simple. Actual link to my review:

I will always sanction a movie that features an 8 year old drinking whiskey and cussing with a spooky old man.

Bill Walsh said...

“…female cow!” It’s the redundancy that makes it sting so.

Stacie Ponder said...

I love that it's a FEMALE cow. It's like they had Annie Wilkes write all the "nasty" dialogue!

Nice review, Emily...this movie DEFINITELY deserves to remain on VHS, or only get the crappiest transfers a la Mill Creek. It adds to the film's dubious charm.

deadlydolls said...

Even though it was so strongly etched in my memory, I assumed my DVD was damaged when the first scene starts with that ridiculous title card. Nope.

I wonder if little Cathy had the same amount or more fun than the young actress playing Esther in Orphan.

GroovyDoom said...

Love the Happy Taco of the strangest experiences in all of Brooklyn. Make that the world.

breedaniels said...

A miniature extra crispy Lizzie Gruman....that line has made my day! She once came into where I used to work, she was really nice, fortunately there wasn't a car nearby.