In this #intothecuttingroom, #itchysilk writer Alessia looks at the erotic horror film Cat People. Written by the excellent director and screen writer, Paul Schrader who wrote the classic Taxi Driver (1976), Cat People centres around themes of zoomorphomism and ultimately female sexuality.
I was randomly scrolling my Netflix when I saw this vintage movie poster which fascinated me: it was the movie titled Cat People directed by Paul Schrader. The old graphic style made me think about something trash, but the gaze from the striking Nastassja Kinski captured me and I watched the movie in its entirety.
A blistering soundtrack by the late enigmatic David Bowie centers this erotic horror film.
See these eyes so red//Red like jungle burning bright//Those who feel me near
Cat People (1982) (Putting Out Fire)
Irene as the main protagonist in the film unearths her disturbing family lineage as werecats. More importantly she learns that she too will take on her feline form the moment she mates with a human. It is a simple plot line centered on zoomorphism-a reoccurring theme in the 80’s with popular programes like the short-lived series Manimal (1983-84), and films like; The Fly (1986) by David Cronenberg and the two projects also in the same mould by the director John Landis; American Werewolf In London (1981) and lest we forget Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983). The almost disturbing animal transformation/mutation eliciting the due level of horror. A more recent film in that zoomorphism ilk being Spring (2014) directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.
It is the fine art of classics: the eternal story of an impossible love. And the theme of the creepy death.
Cat People combined a multitude of themes and ideas not least incest and somehow make that point almost not an issue- (rather like the Bible). Our main protagonist in the film subsequently faces a stark and rather difficult decision (should she wish to remain a human)-sex with her brother or sex with an average human which will turn her into a cougar.
In this absorbing bit of celluloid Schrader brings an interesting combination between love, animal and horror. The link is to an inner wild impulse split between Eros and death. This is the real power of storytelling. It is the fine art of classics: the eternal story of an impossible love. And the theme of the creepy death. There is of course the sub text of female sexuality which is ‘dangerous’ and ‘wild’. The finale of the film sees our main character transform into her animal form-a cougar following mating with a human. Subsequently she is caged in her cougar form, wild and teeth bared. Ultimately her caging somehow symbolic- her sexuality-at last contained
There is a previous original version of Cat People, directed by Jacques Tourneur in 1942 but his depiction is more thriller than horror. The transmutation is a side show if you will. It is the final piece of a thriller mystery.
Schrader’s version with all the motifs of the 80’s brings a delicious erotic horror.