Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Masters of Horror: The Black Cat

30: Masters of Horror: The Black Cat

This Stuart Gordon episode of Masters of Horror starts out more like a character study. Edgar Allen Poe has a young wife who's dying, unsympathetic editors, and a drinking problem. Jeffrey Combs is excellent, though barely recognizable in makeup that makes him greatly resemble Poe. He's another case of "an actor who should be 'huge' and in just about everything."

Things really pick up about 15 minutes in, when Virginia (though he calls her "Sissy"), his wife, starts coughing up blood. It's really disturbing... especially when you develop a tickle in your throat about the same time. When he starts losing his grip because of these pressures, she implores him to start writing again. Unfortunately, there's a black cat named Pluto distracting him. Even from beyond the eventual grave, Pluto remains a problem. The film kinda posits that these were the influences on his greatest fiction. What happens with his wife would certainly drive anyone to madness... and the audience to nausea. Seriously, it ranks up there with the "Animal Trap scene" in Pelts.

Visually, this one works great. There's a muted color scheme where red blood, black ink, and a canary and goldfish get to "pop" - it lends a sense of surrealism to a film that looks "realistic." This isn't one of those "clean" movies set in the past. There's dust and dirt and texture everywhere. There's some surprising moments of animal cruelty in this one. Certainly helps escalate it from "Character Study" to "Horror." The storytelling here is subtle, well-paced, pretty excellent. When the "yucky" scenes show up, they do so in grand (guignol) style. This is one of the creams of the Masters of Horror crop and highly recommended.

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