Another K-Horror this time, and the big question is – will it be better than the awfully disappointing “White: The Melody of a Curse”? I have been hearing things about this one for a while, and although I do understand the spooky connotations long associated with our feline friends, not only in Western Cinema, but also in Korean film (an interesting article here for you to peruse, but please come back), I frankly came i with low expectations, but maybe my prejudices would be dashed on celluloid rocks?
“The Cat” is the story of So-yeon (Park Min-Young), a young girl who works at a Pet Shop/Grooming Parlour. One day she is asked to take care of a cat of a client who was mysteriously killed in a Lift. Over time, she encounters many violent deaths of people who are linked to abusing cats, whilst she is battling her Claustrophobia, and the constant appearances of a ghost of a young girl. Can she, with the help of a young policeman (Kim Dong-wook) get to the bottom of this mystery, before So-yeon becomes the latest victim of this curse?
I have to be honest, I could hardly be bothered to write that synopsis, because is feels so hackneyed.We have seen this in Asian horror so many times (just replace the Cat with something else), and even the poster is riffing on “A Tale of Two Sisters”. Frankly it is going to be easier to describe the issues with the film than try and be balanced about it, which is a shame, as it isn’t a terrible film, just awfully unoriginal and frankly ill-conceived.
The good? Well, I am glad to say the cinematography is up to the standards I expect from a Korean movie, and some of the little side stories are well done (such as the old lady with Alzheimer’s). Park Min-young is also amazingly good looking, and does the whole girl in peril thing rather well – so at least you can get some empathy with her. There are a couple of shocks too, but sadly the whole thing just feels so weakly put together.
Let us start with her Claustrophobia – it comes and goes, as the story requires. She has no internal doors on her apartment, but at various points she goes into strangers houses and does not seem bothered. There is talk of some “traumatic event” that starts this off, but we never get any details. Even when confronted with something that would rightfully terrify her – the claustrophobia is ignored (to be fair there is a ghost in her face). I did like the reveal that the reason she would not visit her mentally ill Father was because the meeting rooms were on a floor only accessible by a lift – but that doesn’t really work when you think about it (surely they have a stairwell in case of fire or mechanical failure, and i think the staff at the facility would understand someone with a mental illness)
The scares are reasonable if generic at best, and sadly a couple of them are laughable. It’s hard to be scared when it looks like someone is having stuffed cats thrown at them. Yet, time and again, you are taken out of the story because things just don’t get followed through on. Your best friend is mysteriously killed? I like to think it might hit me a little harder than So-yeon appears to be here. A Policeman lets a witness walk away from a crime scene? I hope he would get a little more punished than a private insult!
Sometimes it works ok. I saw a documentary a while back, that showed there is this subculture among Korean women that like to dress cats up in costumes and apply makeup to them (although the documentary was trying to say – look at these wacky Koreans – they treat their cats like babies, but eat dogs). So there is a little social commentary here, along with the usual knocking of the Police Force. The Man in the rescue shelter who not only takes pleasure in killing his charges, but also keeps polaroid pictures of their corpses is another nice touch.
If you forget the cats, then you might recognise the story – lifted wholesale from “Dark Water” (another film I should get round to talking about), and of course the Asian ghost child is very passé now (her unique selling point? she has a Bob, not long hair!). The general idea is that the ghost is taking revenge on people that are being abusive to cats – except I have no idea why she was haunting poor So-yeon, and why she was not taking revenge on those responsible for killing HER cats and accidently leading to HER demise.
Taken as a by the book Horror film, it is ok, but I would be struggling to find anyone who would be scared of it. But as the plot is literally lifted from elsewhere, and the whole thing just does not stack up when put under the mildest scrutiny, I’m afraid – not recommended.