This one comes to me from a good friend of mine (you can find her blog here) whom I asked to review this movie as it is the sequel to another movie I reviewed (Cat People, if you couldn’t guess). So, it is my honor to present the very first guest review!
Simone Simon- Ghost of Irena
Kent Smith- Oliver ‘Ollie’ Reed
Jane Randolph – Alice Reed
Ann Carter- Amy Reed
This sequel could more or less go unrelated to the first. Actually, both could go without the hindering intent of ferocious feline femininity that the titles impose on viewers. Cat People did, however, give us a lasting three minute impression after a seventy-minute build up to a man getting his heart & flesh clawed at from kissing the concoctionous (not a real word, but deal with it) lips of Irena, thus bringing out the passion that triggers her nine lives to end his one. But that’s it. And you would think that maybe, seeing as there is a sequel, the installment would make up for the lack thereof and give us something to scream at charismatically, or sigh a sappy relief. However, that’s not the case. The Curse of the Cat People makes those last three minutes from the first seem like a grand scheme of accomplishment in comparison. In Cat People we get a drawn out, cringing climax only to meet an end that makes you shrug. In this sequel, we have flashes of Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts having an affair with the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow in a psychology teacher’s closet.
After the opening credits roll, our eyes gaze upon a scene of children and an adult that could easily be assumed to be their teacher, running through a small, forest like meadow where they stop over a bridge where the teacher, Ms. Callahan, informs her students that this was where the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow claimed his victims (for a second you get sidetracked into thinking that’s what the horror movie is about. But hey, we now know it takes place in Tarrytown!). Anyhow, on this sunshiney day we get introduced to the main character of the story, a little girl named Amy, who happens to be the child of Oliver and Alice Reed. You know, the man from the first film who was married to Irena, didn’t kiss her once, and then left her his now wife, and together they produce our playful, little protagonist. But getting back on track, Amy has a vivid imagination, and constantly daydreams. Which inevitably has her stand out to be the outcast in comparison to the other children, causing her father, Mr. Reed, to be overly anxious about the normality of his offspring, and the characteristics he thinks she shares with his ex-cat lady. The relationship with Amy and her father has viewers question his parenting skills, and where they conflict with that of the social norm, or just allowing your child to be who they are. Mr. Reed constantly puts Amy into situations where he believes her imagination is running her wild, and his interrogations over her lack of friends leads to the conclusion of this: Tell the truth about having an imagination and get punished, or lie and get rewarded. Yay for family values! So where do the cat people come in? Hold on, we’re getting there. Amy just has to make some friends first.
After a failed birthday party where invitations weren’t sent out due to Amy believing in a mail tree, and Mr. Reed telling his daughter that not everything you wish for can come true, only certain things can (buzz kill), Amy gets further caught up in her head as she walks the neighborhood to try and make daddy happy by playing with her peers. All of who run away from her because they’re mad from not being invited, “Because you didn’t ask them? Well I don’t blame them for being angry.” (Thanks jackass, dad. Thanks a lot.) After another blow to her delicate frame of mind, Amy comes upon a, what’s to be known as the Farren house, and hears a lovely voice coming from an open window. She finds herself compelled, and wonders into the front yard, where a handkerchief carrying a ring gets tossed out of the window onto the ground. Amy picks it up, and gets confronted by a woman who can be recognized from the first movie, whose name is Barbara Farren, and holds the same hostility in her cheek bones like she did the first time (Well hey! There’s some consistency). Amy leaves, wearing the ring, and goes home to confide in the house help, Edward (Yes, he’s black) about the encounter, to which he shares with her the knowledge that the item is a wish ring (it’s okay, he can make things up. I mean, she does). So she goes into her backyard, where she often spends time alone, and what does she do? Why, she makes a wish, duh! And soon after she does, a dark shadow swoops over the yard (one that could personify and hint at the fact that Amy’s imagination isn’t seen as a bright aspect, and what she wishes for won’t be fondly taken in. But now I’m just spoiling things.
Amy’s mommy, Alice Reed, takes notice of the ring, asks where she got it, and we get taught once again that we shouldn’t accept gifts from strangers. So she must go take it back, but under the supervision of Edward. And she does! But without Edward, because he’s too busy. And so Amy goes back to the Farren house, where she’s greeted at the door by Barbara’s cold stone glare, where Amy is then led to Julia Farren. Amy explains to her that she can’t accept the gift from a stranger, and tries to give it back. But Julia Farren is taken aback, she must keep the gift, because she’s NOT stranger (Julia Farren a stranger?? Why that’s preposterous! She’s a celebrity, dammit!) Anyhow, Barbara lurks around the corner, keeping an eye on Amy, creating a sense in the viewers that something furry is about to happen. Julia Farren explains that Barbara is an imposter, a liar and a cheat. (We learn later that Barbara is actually her daughter, but why Julia doesn’t believe her to be so, we’re never told. So blame it on Schizophrenia and Alzheimer, we shall.) Amy continues to go to the Farren house, where Julia Farren tells her stories about the Headless Horseman and Sleepy Hollow. And as the terror of the tale starts to build in Amy, envy starts to hiss inside of Barbara as her mother starts to perceive Amy to be her kitten (Since there isn’t any hint of cat-like detail in the movie, I’ll poke fun at it here), and threatens to kill Amy the next time she comes over.
So later that night, Amy has a bad dream about the Headless Horseman, a detail we don’t know the relevancy of for the purpose of the movie, and to come to her rescue is her friend that she wished for. And what do ya know! Her imaginary friend is Irena! Of course! She’s come back to seek vengeance somehow on Amy’s mother & father, like she didn’t get a chance to before! Right?! You couldn’t be more wrong! Throughout the entirety of the movie, Irena is there to simply play with Amy, to encourage her imagination and the possibility that maybe this kid is really deluded, like everyone else seems to think. So they keep playing, and spending time together, worsening the paranoia in Mr. Reed’s mind. But shit hits the fan when Amy finds a picture of Irena that her daddy had kept hidden, and accidently spills the secret that Irena, the crazed ex wife, is who she’s been having fantastical fun with. This eventually teaches Amy that if she doesn’t tell her father what he wants to hear instead of being an honest person and not lying about her imagination, that she has to be punished. And as her teacher Ms. Callahan puts it, “A first spanking is an important occasion.”
Soon though, Amy goes running back to the Farren house after Irena says it’d be best if Amy just forgot about her, and slips away like the Fairy Godmother from Pinocchio. Confused and lonely, Amy tries to make her way back to the Farren house through a blizzard, but has to cross the bridge where she hears galloping, and frightens herself into thinking it’s the Headless Horseman, when really it turns out to be a passing car with faulty tire rims. So she stands up, brushes off the snow, and makes her way back into the Farren house where her life is put into danger because Julia Farren looks up and sees the lights dimming, which of course means that Barbara is about to turn Amy into some kiddy nip (Ha, get it?). So she tried to hide her by going upstairs, but her age claims her and like an eye roll, she’s on the floor dead. And Amy is left there to deal with wrath of Barbara. Do the fangs come out now? There’s about five minutes left, there’s still hope! Will the camera pan over so we can see the human shadow morph into that of a panther? Wait for it… wait for it… nope. Amy just wishes a call for Irena, who’s ghostly form apparently eludes Amy’s vision into thinking Barbara is Irena, and takes comfort in hugging her. We still have a second of Barbara’s hands tightening up around the space about Amy’s head, we think she’s about to choke her, WE THINK THERE’S GOING TO BE SOME HORROR! Aaaand, no, of course not. She returns the hug, and soon after Amy’s father and some police who had been looking for her barge through the door and cheer and shout. Mr. Reed brings Amy home, where he promises to believe in whatever Amy says, and asks if Amy sees Irena in the yard. She says yes, and so does he, with a great big smile. The camera pans over to Irena standing in a spotlight, singing a Christmas carol in French, and then the movie ends. Scene.
So what have we learned? There’s no such thing as an imagination, only lying! Val Lewton is great at proving that with these films.
Overall rating: 1.5 out of 5. (You can’t help but love Amy, and want to call her Alice. All of the credit goes to her.)