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Cat People (1982)



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There are a couple of questions about Cat People I can't answer. What's the point of it? What reason is there for this story? It has nothing to say, no feelings to convey, and very little in the way of gratuitous stylishness to show off for kicks. The acting is weak, the soundtrack is this horrendously cheesy synthesizer nonsense, and the writing lacks even a facsimile of authenticity -- so the movie can't even be said to be well-crafted. There are a few scenes that establish some creepy tension, but they are brief, and most of them only work independently of the logic of the story. (For example, when John Heard's character flips on a light, he's greeted with a pretty shocking sight, which should have more ramifications than it does. For another example, well, do you think a panther would even be capable of swallowing a woman's arm whole, let alone choose to do so?)

The film is a loose remake of the 1942 film of the same name. That movie had a goal and knew how to get there. This remake has no goal at all: it borrows the basic idea, changes the storyline seemingly arbitrarily, and adds visual explicitness and contrivances that sabotage the psychological effect it seems to be going for. One scene copied verbatim from the original film -- the pool scene -- is out of place here, as it involves a character irrelevant to every scene before and after but implies otherwise. Either director Paul Schrader didn't understand what his vision was before he started filming it, or some equally destructive and ignominious artistic failure happened later on in the process.

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