Cathy's Curse (1977)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-07-01 22:35

Written by: Myra Clement, Eddy Matalon, and Alain Sens-Cazenave
Directed by: Eddy Matalon
Starring: Alan Scarfe, Beverly Murray, and Randi Allen

Reviewed by: Brett G.

"All women are bitches!"

When you pay about ten bucks for a public domain set that contains 50 movies, chances are high that two or three of the movies will make the purchase worthwhile. When it comes to Mill Creek’s Chilling Classics set, I already felt like I got my money’s worth with the likes of Funeral Home, Track of the Moonbeast (which I had an awesomely bad time with), Silent Night, Bloody Night, and A Bucket of Blood. Cathy’s Curse was another intriguing title in the set, and it’s exactly the one I had in mind when I tossed Chilling Classics into my bag when I went on vacation. A somewhat notorious late 70s killer kid flick, I assumed it might be yet another diamond in the public domain rough.

The movie starts out not with Cathy, but a little girl named Laura (Linda Koot) who gets burned to death in a horrible car accident with her father. Years later, her brother (Alan Scarfe) moves back into the family home with his wife (Beverly Murray) and his little girl, Cathy (Randi Allen). True to the film’s title, Cathy finds a creepy doll and soon becomes cursed; she becomes possessed by the spirit of her dead aunt who compels her to terrorize her family and friends, sometimes to fatal results.

This was a French-Canadian production filmed in Montreal, but it feels like it could have come from across the Atlantic. The dubbing, the score, the detached acting, and overall general weirdness might fool you into thinking it came from Europe (specifically Italy), but nope--the Great White North delivered Cathy’s Curse, which takes The Omen’s mean streak and wraps it up in Exorcist-style hysterics. That’s a winning combination too--the flick isn’t without its flaws (we’ll get to ‘em), and it manages to be more of an unpolished gem than a diamond, but it shines just brightly enough. Light on plot but heavy on strange, unsettling events, the flick’s craziness ensues pretty quickly--Cathy tries to harm another little girl, then ends up offing a nanny by making her fall out of the window (a seemingly obvious nod to The Omen). After that, things get a little bit more listless and Cathy becomes content to just scare the shit out of everyone by making weird stuff happen to her mom, her dad’s friend, and a psychic medium who is hanging around for some reason.

But little Cathy is so damn unhinged that it all works; in the annuls of creepy horror kids, she’s up there with the best of them. She’s got an icy stare that lets you know she’s possessed by someone that’s righteously pissed off. And if that’s not enough, her vulgarity makes it all the more clear. Apparently Lucy harbors resentment towards all women (since her mom abandoned her), which causes her to refer to them as “whores” and “bitches,” and it’s startling coming out of Randi Allen’s mouth. The Exorcist-inspired bits arrive in the form of some demonic voice-altering techniques that are over-the-top and sort of hilarious; the showdown with the medium is particularly fun, as Cathy starts spitting out goofy one-liners in the hopes of making sure the old lady never returns (never mind that she had no qualms about killing off the nanny earlier).

More bizarre awesomeness emerges in the relationship with the mother. I’m guessing a lot of parents would give their kids the benefit of the doubt, but Cathy’s mom is pretty easily convinced that she’s raising the spawn of Satan (though she’s strangely nonchalant about Cathy teleporting before her eyes). Beverly Murray’s acting is quite cringe-worthy (she’s about the most unconvincing hysterical lady I’ve ever seen), but there’s something intriguing about the resentment her character has for her on-screen daughter; Cathy’s manipulation of the father is also strangely effective (more strange though) because she’s got him fooled into believing she’s still a little angel. Speaking of cringe-worthy, he often leaves Cathy in the care of this strange old guy named Paul, which just seems like a bad idea 35 years and numerous molestation cases later.

Director Matalon isn’t interested in dwelling on the logistics of it all, though; in fact, his direction is rather fast and loose. The opening sequences are especially bewildering, and I’m still not entirely sure why Lucy’s dad was adamant about getting her into his car in the dead of night before they both died horribly. No matter though, it’s just an excuse to build to the premise, and when Matalon wants things to go nuts, though, it works. Many of the horror sequences are trippy, as if he were doing his best Argento or Fulci impersonation by focusing on producing unusual visuals that don’t really make a lot of sense. They sure are manic, though, and Didier Vasseur’s score is a nice complement that contains the requisite choir chants (one piece sounds like a precursor to the Poltergeist theme) and piano noodlings that transport you to somewhere otherworldly.

I can’t really decide if Cathy’s Curse is a movie that works despite its flaws or if it’s just a movie that’s charmingly bad. It’s somewhere along that continuum because I can’t vouch for much of it being “good”; the production values are TV level at best, the acting (besides Allen’s) isn’t great (and is further sunk by the dubbing), and there’s really not much of a plot besides “little strange girl scares people.” But I was mostly entertained and drawn in by its surreal atmosphere and its commitment to hurling out a bunch of crazy scenes for 80 minutes. It’s sort of brazen in its disregard for character development and logic, which makes it quite possibly one of the best Euro-horrors ever produced from Canada. At this point, anything worthwhile that comes out of that old Chilling Classics set is gravy, but Cathy’s Curse is probably more like a mountain of cheese. It goes down rather easily, though Mill Creek’s transfer doesn’t do it must justice--it’s very muddy and washed out, but ultimately watchable. I’d say it was worth every penny it cost me, but, technically speaking, it probably cost me about two dimes that were well spent. Buy it!

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