Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Running Time: 73 mins
Cat People is an American film about a shy woman who marries a well-meaning man, but struggles to deal with a complex past that means she turns into a vicious panther whenever she feels jealous or aroused.
A cult classic of horror, Cat People is without doubt at its best when it’s at its most eerie. It’s strikingly moody in tone, and it builds well throughout, even if its first half plays out as a fairly underwhelming and uninteresting romantic drama.
If you’re looking for wall-to-wall tension, then Cat People isn’t your film. However, if you stick with it, it evolves into something really quite memorable. Its opening half hour may not be much different from most classic Hollywood dramas, failing to capture any real suspense or intrigue, but the way the film opens up in the second half is excellent.
It’s only a short watch, so it doesn’t take long to get over that rather mediocre first act. And once the horror-driven story elements take hold, the film begins to teem with a gripping air of suspense.
From its moody atmosphere to a bubbling unease in its main characters, Cat People ultimately becomes the strange, almost disturbing offbeat horror that it should have been right from the start.
The film is at its best in two spectacularly unnerving sequences later on, which combine the story’s innate suspense and unease with expert directing and cinematic style. In fact, those moments are so striking that they’re even a little bit scary.
What’s more, the lead performance from Simone Simon is just the right blend of a cutesy female lead and a disturbed, unstable individual with unpredictable intentions that make watching her a thrilling ride.
Again, that part of the story doesn’t really come into its own until the film’s second half, and it’s fair to say that the opening act is quite underwhelming. Still, with such a short runtime, it’s worth the wait for what is an eye-catching final act, so that’s why I’m giving Cat People a 7.5 overall.