By the mid-1980s, Hollywood studios were scrambling through Stephen King’s work to find the next big adaptation. When Cat’s Eye was released in 1985, eight movies based on King’s work had already made their way to the big screen. Even Children of the Corn – a pretty short story in King’s Night Shift collection – found itself as a feature-length movie. And Silver Bullet hit screens a few months after Cat’s Eye the same year. So it’s not surprising that horror fans have forgotten about this anthology movie. With three segments – one King penned just for the movie – connected by a stray cat, Cat’s Eye may not rank high among King adaptations, but it could be catnip for diehard fans.
Quitters, Inc, May have Smokers Thinking Twice About that Next Cigarette Break
Lifelong smoker Dick Morrison joins a revolutionary program, Quitters, Inc, on the advice of a friend. According to the clinic’s head counsellor, the program has a 100% success rate. Unfortunately, Dick quickly learns why – the program threatens family members with electrocution for every cigarette he smokes. And the punishment only gets worse with each indiscretion. Here, Cat’s Eye and director Lewis Teague (Cujo) almost strike the right balance between the horror of the situation and the humor of its concept. Though it’s rarely scary – and never fully exploits the horror of what’s on screen – Cat’s Eye conjures up a bit of suspense. Smokers trying to quit may think twice about sneaking a cigarette when they think no one’s looking.
Though it’s rarely scary – and never fully exploits the horror of what’s on screen – Cat’s Eye conjures up a bit of suspense.
Much of the success of Quitters, Inc, however, rests on the performances. Love or hate him, James Woods is a top-notch actor. Here, Woods sells the look of a man initially bemused and then horrified by his situation. In the segment’s final scene, Woods’ expression is priceless. But comedian Alan King’s over-the-top performance as the Quitters, Inc, counsellor, is the icing on the cake. It’s a manic performance that at least sells the intended dark humor.
Cat’s Eye Puts You on the Edge in ‘The Ledge’
In what’s probably Cat’s Eye’s best segment, The Ledge actually feels like it has genuine stakes. King’s story about a retired tennis pro whose affair with a gangster’s wife leads to a deadly wager plays on an easily exploitable phobia. Fear of heights, or acrophobia, is one of the more common fears. And while there’s not much in the way of inventiveness on display, Teague puts the narrow ledge to good use. Anyone with even a remote fear of heights ought to feel a bit squeamish. Moreover, The Ledge’s villain, Cressner (Kenneth McMillian, Salem’s Lot), aptly balances charisma and menace. His inevitable comeuppance – and yes, the segment is quite predictable – still feels satisfying. Despite being most known for his role in Airplane, Robert Hays does perfectly fine as the put-upon Norris.
‘General’ Misses Potential with its Sentimental Finale
On our cat’s final destination, General, Drew Barrymore plays the disembodied little girl asking for help earlier in Cat’s Eye. Playing an only child named Amanda, she finds our stray cat and against her mother’s wishes, ‘adopts’ him. But mom wins one battle, insisting that ‘General’ stay outside. That’s bad news for Amanda when a troll crawls out from her bedroom wall and tries to suck her soul. Of the three segments in Cat’s Eye, General is both the lightest and biggest missed opportunity. Not surprisingly, Drew Barrymore is excellent and King’s original story of a cat trying to save it’s new girl is touching. Moreover, the creature design of the troll is impressive. Nonetheless, some late hokey special effects and segment’s emphasis on humor saps it of what could have been an edge-of-your-seat finale.
Cat’s Eye an Adequate King Adaptation Best-Suited for Diehard Fans
At the end of the day, Cat’s Eye winds up on the middle of most King adaptation rankings for a reason. Neither awful nor outstanding Cat’s Eye is a perfectly middling effort. Though he captured a claustrophobic sense of terror in Cujo, Teague rarely replicates the same feeling here. Occasionally, Cat’s Eye generates some suspense. All the performances are strong. And there’s some dark humor that lands. but the overall sense is that this is a pretty light outing for King’s material. Consider this horror anthology for diehard King fans only.