Director: Lewis Teague
Writer: Stephen King
Stars: James Woods, Drew Barrymore, Robert Hays
The 1980’s saw a plethora of Stephen King’s written material being adapted for the screen, and the 1985 horror anthology film Cat’s Eye drew together three of his shorter works into a singular film telling three different stories, each threaded together with the appearance of a seemingly inconsequential tabby cat. Adapted by King himself, the stories are drawn from his Night Shift collection and another previously unpublished short, The General.
Our feline storyteller first appears in the vignette Quitters Inc., starring James Woods as a man gone to desperate measures to kick his smoking habit. Referred to the title organization by a friend, Woods’ character, Dick, finds himself in over his head as the punishment for breaking his resolve is revealed: each cigarette smoked will cause increasingly violent acts to fall upon himself and his family. The first punishment for an infraction is revealed by use of a hapless stray cat – the title feline – who is tossed into a metal cage and tortured with electric shocks. Unable to hold his resolve, Dick causes much harm to befall his family, making it clear that while Quitters Inc. may solve an addiction, it does so only at a staggering price.
Free from the tortuous Quitters Inc., the tabby moves on to the second story in the film, The Ledge, this time finding is way into the home of a mafia overlord with a propensity towards making unique gambling bets. Cressner, the mob boss, is enraged to find that his wife has been having an affair, and uses his connections to draw her lover, Norris (Robert Hays) into a dangerous game of chance that has deadly consequences.
Once free from Cressner’s clutches, the tabby moves towards his final goal. Throughout the film, the cat had been spying ethereal messages from a little girl who needed his help, and in the final story in the film, The General, he finds young Amanda (Drew Barrymore, who had previously played a role in the film adaptation of King’s novel Firestarter) in desperate need, and fights to save her from an evil troll that had taken up residence in her wall.
Cat’s Eye was an interesting take on the horror anthology film, coming in an era where vignette laden horror films were gaining increasing popularity. While most are full of tales strung together by a hapless narrator, Cat’s Eye took an alternate route, providing a narrator of sorts who never speaks a word. Rife with references to King’s other works, the film falls well in line with the cadre of adaptations that have been produced based on his novels and short stories. Of particular interest are concepts that show up in later horror films, including the idea of a cat’s ability to steal breath, which plays a role in Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (1990) and even a shock that shows up again in 1995’s dark serial killer thriller, Seven.
Overall, Cat’s Eye is a fairly tame but enjoyable film that is an indispensable part of anyone’s horror film collection.