Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Get in the holiday spirit with these horror anthology films, which offer several scary stories for the price of one.
For most of the ’80s, Stephen King adaptations were coming to theaters at a rate of several per year; the existence of Cat’s Eye is a testament to the degree to which King on film had become more or less its own franchise by 1985. An anthology film (like 1982’s Creepshow) directed by Lewis Teague (like 1983’s Cujo) and starring Drew Barrymore (like 1984’s Firestarter), Cat’s Eye combines two King short story adaptations from his Night Shift collection with one original. (King wrote the screenplay himself.) As a horror anthology, it’s not as ghoulish as Creepshow; at least two of the stories lean more Alfred Hitchcock Presents than Tales From The Crypt, with crime elements providing the sense of menace.
The link between the three stories could, alongside Cujo, be taken as evidence that King is totally a cat person, or was at the time: The film opens with a scrappy cat being chased by a mean dog, and that cat is a minor character in the first two stories before starring in the third. After escaping the dog, the cat is captured by employees of Quitters, Inc. and used to demonstrate their highly unorthodox methods of encouraging their customers to quit smoking. After Dick Morrison (James Woods) completes his treatment, the movie follows the cat’s escape to Atlantic City, where he’s the subject of a bet over whether he can successfully cross a busy street on his own. This foreshadows a more elaborately terrifying gauntlet orchestrated by the same gambler, whose victim is played by Airplane! pilot Robert Hays. Finally, the cat winds up in the arms of young Amanda (Drew Barrymore), locked in battle with an evil troll (the pre-internet kind).
The final segment is the most memorable and also the silliest of the bunch, but those two qualities apply to the whole movie. The first two sections have King’s knack for exploiting everyday fears—in this case, of a vice causing loved ones harm, and of being forced to perform an impossible-seeming feat—and his sometimes-cornball sense of humor. Despite a few nasty bits of violence, Cat’s Eye almost plays like an intro to King for younger viewers ready for some shocks but not yet prepared for full-on nightmares.
Availability: Cat’s Eye is available on DVD from Amazon or possibly your local video store/library. It can also be rented or purchased digitally from the usual outlets.