Y'all wanna hear something that happened to me last night? You don’t? WELL I DON’T CARE, so anyways, last night I was going to the kitchen and it was like LATE at night.So I went to the kitchen and got what I came in there to get and then go to my room right? So like some time later,I went back into the kitchen to get something else and I noticed that the light on top of my stove was ON(I have two lights:one that lights up the whole kitchen and one that just lights up the top of the stove so you can see).And in my mind I’m thinking"okay so my dad is asleep so he didn’t turn the stove light on and I don’t think I turned the light on either…“So I kinda just…looked at the light for a moment and in the corner of my eye…I see some black figure standing behind my fridge and dart away when I turn to look at it(keep in mind it’s LATE and I’m TIRED and that’s when I start SEEIN shit).AND BRO…..,..TELL ME WHY THE MOMENT AFTER I SAW THAT,I LITERALLY SAID TO MYSELF OUTLOUD"listen if there’s a ghost in this house I don’t care man…just…don’t bother me…” AND THEN I JUST WALKED BACK INTO MY ROOM LIKE THAT WAS NOTHING BRUHH
I almost played hooky from Blogtober today, as I’m deliriously sick with this hay fever that I seem to get once a week now, as I’m trapped in my incurably dusty apartment while doing my part to flatten the covid curve. Ordinarily I’d like to have a little more mental clarity to address my Blogtober selections…but in this case, delirium might be the right state of mind. The iconic canuxploitation entry CATHY’S CURSE is a movie so crazy I had to watch it two days in a row, the second time after I’d sobered up from the initial shock, to make sure I really understood what was happening in it. At the present time, I THINK I have finally digested my experience, and I am entirely delighted to share it with the internet.
I mean…look at this completely perfect poster.
Based on my copious, meticulous notes, here is what seems to happen in Eddy Matalon’s tax shelter classic from 1977: Happy-go-lucky George Gimble (Alan Scarfe), his wife Vivian (Beverly Murray), and their eight year old daughter Cathy (Randi Allen–if you’re only going to make one movie in your life, it might as well be this one!) move into the patriarch’s hideous ancestral home, somewhere in Montreal. The grotesque Tudor manse remains just as it was in George’s childhood; he skips around the house, fondling this memento and that–especially a nude female statuette that he all but admits he used to beat off to as a kid. Awash in nostalgia, he ignores the increasing brittleness of his daughter and wife, the latter of whom has recently suffered a miscarriage and a nervous breakdown. Shortly after their arrival, Cathy in particular starts to get real weird. This has something to do with a dirty old doll she finds in the attic, hanging out with a glowy-eyed portrait of her late aunt, who died in an infernal car wreck when she and George were children. The crash was tangentially caused by the defection of George’s mother, who bailed on his father and absconded with him, shortly before his dad and little Laura burned to death in the car. Soon, Cathy becomes possessed by Laura’s evil spirit, developing the goal of destroying Vivian’s sanity, if not the whole family altogether.
The Eyes of Randi Allen
CATHY’S CURSE is one of those movies that transcends standards of “good” and “bad” by turning up its nose at quality and coherence, and being vastly more entertaining than many more conventional films as a result. Though not at all cerebral, this kind of rare jewel forces me to think carefully about how I address it. On the one hand, I can go to town on how absolutely bonkers it is, suggesting that everyone involved must have been totally insane–a sense you definitely get while watching it. On the other hand, I could be a little more flexible–after all I am deeply grateful to the people who make movies like this, insane or otherwise– and try to talk about what’s in the text, that is so easily overwhelmed by what’s on the screen. Let’s try that.
Vivian, Cathy, an exceptionally crappy plant, and George.
Alan Scarfe, who plays George, is unmistakably a theater native. His broad mannerisms, along with his unusual bone structure, give the impression that he’s always smirking to himself about something, ala Mister Burns, or Jay Sherman’s dad from The Critic–which is very funny, and not completely inappropriate. George’s smarmy hubris is something that he inherited from his father, who imparted to Laura the idea that “all women are bitches” shortly before they were both burned alive. George ignores or belittles Vivian’s worsening neurosis, even though we learn that she recently lost a baby right at the beginning of the movie. He is equally immune to Cathy’s escalating corruption, though most of this is aimed at her mom, as Cathy terrorizes Vivian with her bizarre talent for teleportation, her ability to rot food with her mind, and to telekinetically fling caretaker Mary (Dorothy Davis) out the window to her icy death. Cathy is possessed by Laura, but she is really her grandfather’s child, slinging insults like “fat dried-up old whore”, and often-hilariously gaslighting her mother. It takes George forever to cotton to what’s going on–and why wouldn’t it, when his natural inclination toward his fragile wife is to lunge out of the mansion’s haunted shadows and clamp his hand over her mouth as a form of foreplay. The man of the house isn’t quite at the point of chasing Vivian around with a baseball bat, but he does display a Torrence-esque disregard for her sanity. And like, not to call CATHY’S CURSE a serious work of psychological realism, but it’s not uncommon, in a traumatized family, for daughters to hyper-identify with the father, internalizing his misogyny and turning on the mother. Even without Laura’s homicidal ghost lurking around, it’s easy for Cathy to take cues from her father, who accidentally calls her by Vivian’s name, and lavishes attention on that coy little statue as he willfully neglects his spiraling wife.
All this is not to say that I’m reframing CATHY’S CURSE as a real thinker. I just want to give credit where it’s due–even though the main event is its fabulously weird set pieces and logic-defying twists and turns. In one of my favorite scenes, Vivian warns Mary the caretaker to let Cathy sleep as long as she wants, since Cathy had a rough night after being separated from the demonic doll. Mary responds by going right upstairs and waking Cathy up for breakfast; then the little girl comes downstairs, explodes her father’s jerkoff statue with her magic powers, and calmly smashes her bowl of cereal against the wall. Unperturbed, Mary picks up exactly three pieces of shattered ceramic out of the puddle of cereal on the floor and declares, “There, it’s all finished,” before offering Cathy a second bowl, which Cathy is fixing up right in front of her. The movie is so zany that it can be hard to tell whether we’re supposed to think that Mary has somehow fallen victim to the curse, or if this is just par for the course of CATHY’S CURSE. Similarly, early in the movie, an intrusive neighbor brings a psychic medium (Mary Morter) over to visit Vivian–whereupon she channels voices from the inciting car wreck of the past, and bursts into terrifying shrieks and groans. Later, the medium calls on the Gimbles a few more times, with the demure introduction “I’m sure you remember me, I was at your house the other day…I was the medium, remember?”, as if anyone could POSSIBLY FORGET WHAT HAPPENED. “Medium,” sneers the possessed Cathy, “I say extra-rare piece of shit!” That’s the kind of thing that makes this movie a bonafide classic. Basically, I’m concluding that CATHY’S CURSE as a little something for everyone. Whether you want to wallow in pretentious sturm und drang like me, or you’re in it just for the kicks, Cathy’s got you covered.