This time out it’s off to Korea for our Halloween movie festival and a look at the recent horror film “The Cat: Eyes that See Death” aka “고양이 : 죽음을 보는 두 개의 눈”. Hmmmm?? A haunted ghost story…. about cats? What sort of self respecting “Catgirl Princess” would I be if I ever let myself miss this one? ;)
Our synopsis goes as follows: “So-yeon (Park Min-yeong), is a pet groomer who suffers from claustrophobia stemming from a childhood experience. One day, one of So-yeon’s customers dies while on an elevator, leaving her cat Bi-dan behind. The mystery of who killed the woman on the elevator is unknown, and the cat is the only witness. As the police begin their investigation, they ask So-yeon to take care of Bi-dan. But something strange happens to So-yeon from the day she brings Bi-dan home.
So-yeon starts having vivid and disturbing nightmares in which she sees a little girl who keeps coming back to haunt her dreams. Afraid and unsure of just what this might mean, So-yeon starts investigating the mystery of the cat and the death of its owner just as her closest friend, who has also recently gotten a cat, suddenly dies under eerie circumstances. Just what is the strange “curse of the cat”? And… will she be it’s next victim?”
I’ve already seen the Trailer.. and read plenty of reviews by others, including one by our good friend Elpeevio over at his Blog, Things Fall Apart… and for the most part, the feelings seem mixed on this one. Still.. the Koreans always do a class act with their films and even the worst ones are still worth a look, so naturally this curious kitten just has to take a peek for herself….
Wanna know if this kitty is worth a watch for you as well? Or… should it be spayed, neutered, and dropped off at the pound to be put mercifully to sleep? Still wanna know? Why then all you have to do is “Read On” and find out all the details for yourself…
Asian horror films have a real history with the cat… particularly the Japanese who made scores of “Bakeneko” films back in the day…. Don’t just take this wee Catgirl’s word for it, take a peek HERE for a nice lil’ overview of some of those classics at Weirdwildrealm, home of another movie obsessed fangirl. So… is it surprising to see yet another one creep ever so quietly out of neighboring Korea onto DVD on lil’ cat paws? No…. not really. As lovable and cuddly as our feline friends can be to all those of us who share our lives with them, as kindred spirits it’s not hard for us to understand the very inscrutably “alien” nature of the cat at it’s most basic. It’s this quality of theirs that lends itself well to the eerie nature of the horror film… and if cats are aware of such very “human” notions like this, I like to think they’d be fairly amused by our fascination with their mysterious existence. Given this, it’s not hard for me to want to watch, and hopefully enjoy, a film like “The Cat”…. just to feed my fascination with all things feline and creepy. If there’s an audience for such film fare…. it’s probably lil’ ol’ me….. So was it up to the task?
It certainly tries hard. Like most Korean efforts, it’s a slick, classy looking film with good acting, cinematography, and high production standards overall. If it has any one thing that it’s missing, it would… unfortunately… be the story.
That story involves our heroine So-yeon (played by Park Min-yeong) who works at a pet grooming salon in Seoul. You get the sense she’s supposed to be a caring young woman who loves pets and despises owners that seem to want to keep them as merely “fashion accessories” or simple possessions. But… and this isn’t just me, as even my sweetie Carolyn got the same vibe form watching the film…. Miss Park just isn’t a “cat person”. It’s probably not her fault….. and she’s probably a really nice person in “real life”… but in almost every scene she shares with one of our feline friends it’s painfully evident that she’s one of those people that cats just don’t feel comfortable with. That’s really a shame too… because the story really needs her to be someone with whom pets share a special bond of trust. But it just isn’t there.
Another odd thing is the idea that the character she plays, So-yeon, is supposed to be afflicted by a severe case of claustrophobia… so severe that it goes back to a tragic and yet somehow forgotten trauma in her childhood. That sounds sort of important, right? The sort of plot element that would be uncovered as our story progresses and ultimately figure into the overall plot climax, yes? Well… it doesn’t. In fact… other than giving So-yeon all these quirky reactions to having doors closed on her or not being able to stand being in elevators, it doesn’t actually have any real reason for having been included into the story at all. But, although these two things stick out as the most troubling obstacles that our film has to overcome, they aren’t the only ones.
When the story starts out, the events that are behind all the creepy happenings are already in play, so basically what we get is a supernatural “who done it” as So-yeon spends most of the film trying to track down the mysterious past of the eerie white cat that gets inconveniently dumped on her by the death of one of her customers at the salon. Combine that with a somewhat restrained romantic sub-plot involving the cute policeman she has always had a crush on from waaaay back when he used to date her best friend, and there really isn’t a lot of room for much else. That’s a shame…. I’d have liked a bit more of So-yeon’s past to have been revealed. Other than her phobia and it’s unexplained cause, I’d have liked to know more about her relationship with her father… confined to a mental heath hospice as we see by the end of the film, but never visited by his daughter until all the story is done. Was he connected to the trauma that scarred her mentally as a child? Did she have issues with him that caused a rift between them so great that she basically abandoned him to the care of strangers? We never find out, and it leaves one feeling a bit empty.
The ghostly stuff is alright… but certainly nothing special we haven’t seen in dozens of similar Japanese and Korean horror efforts. The ghost itself? Well, the begrudged spirits of the missing little girl Hee-jin and the cats she loved merge into a single entity to seek revenge on those responsible for their miserable and so unnecessary deaths. That’s very much in line with the bakeneko stories your Favorite Catgirl knows by heart. Think of the murdered women of “Kuroneko” but without all the sexual overtones and you’ve got it down. The murders aren’t amazing here… outside of the well deserved demise of a cruel and evil worker at the animal shelter who’s personal kink was the euthanization of perfectly healthy animals in his care. He meets his just fate by being burned alive in the same incinerator he used on all his poor victims at the shelter. Can’t say the other deaths are all that memorable though, or even particularly shocking. As vengeful ghosts go, little Hee-jin… with her golden cat eyes and feral looking lil’ claws is definitely scary enough… but we don’t get to see her often enough to really enjoy it. The ultimate climax of our film? Disappointingly enough, most of it is lifted from the earlier Japanese effort “Dark Water”, repackaged and altered enough to suit the story but far from satisfying after all the buildup that lead to it. Ah well…..
So what’s my ultimate opinion on this one then? Well…. it’s not a bad film, but overall it is a disappointing one. Neko gives “The Cat” only a middle-of-the-road 3 “Meows” out of 5. Like this wee Catgirl, you’ll watch it… probably be mildly entertained if Asian style horror is your thing, but you won’t see anything particularly new or novel or carry away any lasting impressions that stick with you a while. A real shame…. but this kitty just didn’t deliver the “Tender Vittles”….
The DVD is excellent as Korean DVD’s always are, but it is a bit pricey, at 25-35$ US depending upon where you buy it. It’s widescreen and has awesomely accurate English subtitles… but even so, your Favorite Catgirl recommends waiting for the more budget friendly HK DVD release before you take the plunge on this one. Still… it did show that there’s a lot of life in the old fairy tales of evil cat spirits and revenge from beyond the grave, so hopefully soon someone will do this idea justice and give us a big budget treatment to one of those old period ghost stories once again. If the ever do, you can trust that Neko will be there… ready to watch… wine coolers all chilled and popcorn popped.
There’s a trailer to be had, and here it is…. Enjoy!!