Anthology Week Day 1: Cat's Eye aka Stephen King's Cat's Eye

Released by Warner Bros.

Release Date: Apr. 12th, 1985

Starring: James Woods, Drew Barrymore, Alan King, and Robert Hayes

Written by Stephen King

Directed by Lewis Teague

Rated PG-13 (Language and Frightening Images)

Cat’s Eye (or Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye) is an underrated anthology film from 1985. The screenplay was written by Stephen King (hence his name above the title) and directed by Lewis Teague, who directed Cujo and the vastly overlooked Alligator. This is a team-up made in Heaven.

The film starts with the titular cat being chased by a dog that looks an awful like the dog from Cujo. This chase goes all across a small town that includes almost getting hit by the car from Christine. The cat makes it to a truck where the Cujo dog can not get to it. This cat is the link between the three stories in the film.

Quitters Inc: A man, James Woods, wants to quit smoking and goes to a place called ‘Quitters Inc’ to get the help that he needs to achieve his goal. Once there he finds that the methods implored to the CEO are a little bit too much. The CEO tells Woods that he will be under the very watchful eye of the employees of the company. The CEO then opens a curtain to reveal the titular cat standing in a small room. The CEO then takes out a remote and presses a button which causes the floor in the small room to become electrified, thus shocking the cat. The CEO turns off the floor and tells Woods that the first time he is caught smoking; the company will put Woods’ wife in the room and do the same thing to her that was done to the cat. If Woods continues to smoke, the company will eventually rape and kill Woods’ wife and daughter.

The rest of the story finds Woods trying to not smoke even though almost everyone he knows smokes. This was the 80’s where you could smoke almost anywhere, inside and out. Woods also finds that the threat of people watching him is truthful when he finds that someone was hiding his one of his closets during the night.

The rest of the story I will not spoil, but I will say that Woods does get caught smoking, but the film doesn’t do what I thought it was going to do. This is a smartly written satire focused on how much of an influence the tobacco industry had in the 80’s and how hard it was to quit. As a former smoker, I can tell you that quitting was one of the hardest things that I had to do and it took me a long time and many attempts to quit for good. Had a company, like the one in the film, been around the first or second time I tried to quit, my family would not have had a chance.

This is a really good story that creeps us out with the company’s willingness to invade Woods’ privacy just to make sure that he quits smoking. Woods’ is great as a man who really wants to quit, but keeps getting tempted when he keeps finding cigarettes all over the place.

Since this is an anthology story and all good anthology stories have to have a comeuppance at the end, I can say that the story went in directions that I was not expecting. I will say that the twist, and there is always a twist in an anthology story, was not that big. Sure, it was unexpected, but once one question was asked towards the end, I knew where the story was going.

The Ledge: A shady Atlantic City millionaire forces a man (Robert Hays) to walk along the ledge that surrounds the millionaire’s penthouse. If Hays walks the entire ledge, which is at least twenty stories up and is very narrow, he can have a set amount of money and the millionaire’s wife, with whom Hayes has been having an affair.

This is a good story, but it is the weakest of the three. The scenes with Hays on the ledge are the highlight of the film, as he fights off attacks from the millionaire and his cronies, as well as a pigeon that keeps pecking at Hayes feet. There is some comedy to be had as well as a twist that I did not see coming. There isn’t much to this story at all, but it isn’t bad and certainly doesn’t bog down the film.

The effects are pretty good, although there is a shot that needed to use of a green screen that is just awful. The shots of the city behind Hayes as well as the sense of height are really well handled.

The General: This is the last story of the film and defiantly the creepiest. Drew Barrymore is a little girl who falls in love with the titular cat after coming up the Barrymore’s house. The mother doesn’t want to keep the cat and tells Barrymore that while she is sleeping, the cat will try to take the breath away from her. That night a hole is formed in the wall of Barrymore’s bedroom. A little monster comes out of the hole and hops up on to the bed. The monster then plays around with Barrymore’s nose, trying to get hereto stop breathing.

The first night doesn’t fare well for the monster, so it tries again the next night. The monster goes back to Barrymore as she sleeps and begins to take the breath from her. As the monster takes the breath the cat comes into the room to fight the monster one-on-one and save Barrymore from certain death.

This story is the best remembered story of the film. Any kid that saw this film growing up has to sleep with the lights on because the monster was so effective. The story gets under your skin and doesn’t want to leave. Just the idea of something invading you privacy while you are a sleep is enough to illict nightmares from the strongest willed person. The fact that it is a little monster freaked the hell out of kids who always thought of their bedrooms as a safe haven. I know that if I had seen this as a kid, I would have been traumatized by it.

As a whole the film is really well made. The low budget for the film doesn’t hurt the overall quality. Each story is told in a way that maximizes the potential of the story. Quitters Inc. is told as a satire, but there are a few times where fear is added, especially with idea that you are being followed and watched as you live your life and that you can be picked up and made to vanish at any time. The film does have some funny moments and I would say that most of it comes from Woods, but there are moments, like when the CEO smashes Woods’ cigarettes into a desk.

The Ledge is good, but not great. I liked the fear of heights that the film gives us and the effects are mostly done well. The story is not one that will be remembered other than “What was the second story in Cat’s Eye?”

The General is just creepy. As an adult, I still find it creepy, but not as much as I would have as a kid. Just the notion that something that I have never seen before, and lives in my walls, will come out at night and take my breath just weirds me out. I was very tense watching this story. The effects here, with the monster and a green screen, are better handled than the green screen shots in The Ledge. I will say that the fight between the cat and the monster is exciting and well handled.

I wish that there were more films like Cat’s Eye. This is a prime example of a filmmaker pushing the limits of the PG-13 rating. There isn’t much blood, but the overall atmosphere of the film is very horror like and while I was watching the film, I had no idea that it was a PG-13 rated film. We need more horror films like this; not many jump scares but a lot of horror nonetheless. This is a worth film for any horror fans’ collection.

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