The Curse of the Cat People doesn't have much to do with cat people, but it's just as accomplished as its predecessor. Truth be told, I found this flick to be more welcoming than Cat People. The plot thread picks up where the first film left off. This is a direct sequel all the way down to its returning troupe of players. Simone Simon reprises her role as Irena, this time in the form of a forbearing apparition. Kent Smith and June Randolph return as husband and wife. Their daughter spins fantastic yarns about a friend that she plays with in the garden, but naturally, her parents write off this hidden playmate as an imaginary entity. If you think you know where this synopsis is heading, think again.
Curse isn't a spookshow. I can't even call it a thriller. It's basically a children's movie that borrows themes and characters from a horror film. Instead of alarming you with dancing shadows and paralyzing panthers on the prowl, Curse tugs at your heart strings with coming-of-age melodrama. One thing I really liked about the film's disarmed approach is that it portrays childhood in a grounded way. The child actors are given intelligent dialogue to work with. Speaking of the child actors, all of them give exemplary performances, especially the adorable Ann Carter. She upstages a rigid Kent Smith who never seems to settle into a groove. To me, he was more attentive in the original.
Most of Curse was directed by Robert Wise. He was cutting his teeth behind the camera, but his bicuspids were already fairly sharp (ugh, just ignore that sentence). His understated style suits a film like this, and he doesn't try too hard to dress everything up in genre gimmickry. I imagine that The Curse of the Cat People will baffle many horror goons. It baffled me to some extent. However, it works as a blithe, lighthearted ghost story. Just don't expect the thrills and spills of a typical Val Lewton photoplay.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 4:11 PM