Australia | 2015 | Directed by Dave Jackson
Logline: A young man becomes a masked serial killer in a deranged attempt to honour and resurrect the life of his beloved feline pet.
It’s always resfreshing to see a horror movie that strays outside the boundaries, jumping fences, spraying on walls, hissing at strangers, clawing at faces. Any narrative that refuses to play by the rules, yet delivers the goods, gets my enthusiastic nod of approval. Dave Jackson’s debut feature, which stemmed from a 2013 short, is probably the most original, unapologetic, and strangely affecting Australian horror movie since Bad Boy Bubby. They both involve dead cats, funny that.
Twenty-something loner Ted (Matthew C. Vaughn) is suffering rather badly. His cat, Patrick, his beloved pet since childhood, has passed away. Now Ted has had a major brain snap. In a desperate attempt to bring back his one and only he believes he must take the nine lives that his feline friend once possessed and harbour the blood for his successful resurrection.
Ted has a sculptor make him a pair of cat gloves with razorsharp claws. He dons the too small red jumper from his adolescence and the huge full head black cat mask he got one Christmas as a lad. Now he is Catman, and (rather inexplicably) a danger to all women.
In a bizarre parallel narrative (or sub-plot, if you will) Claire (Shian Denovan) has a white cat called Ismelda, an Internet sensation. But in a cruel and tragic turn of events Claire’s beloved is also taken from her. Claire and Ted are on a collision course.
Channeling the surrealist cinema of late 70s/early 80s low-budget Euro, US, and Aussie exploitation fare, with many references, and yet, the movie remains thematically elusive and feels disturbingly original. It’s a troubling and confronting tale of a young man’s mental disintegration and a young woman’s grief and survival. Nothing can quite prepare you for the seemingly indulgent, harrowing weirdness, and nightmarish comedy, that is director/co-screenwriter Dave Jackson and co-screenwriter Andrew Gallacher’s Cat Sick Blues.
Props to Matthew Revert's retro-vibed score, and to Shian Denovan and Matthew C. Vaughn for their dedicated performances, but I must take my hat off to the special effects team for their dynamic and seamless use of excellent practical effects and in the right places CGI.
Cat Sick Blues is one of those instant cult classics. I could feel its dark, stylish energy from the startling credit sequence. The ending doesn’t quite deliver the pay off you are anticipating (although quite what I was expecting or wanting, I wasn’t sure), but in an unctuous and perverse way, it works; one can almost feel the fur ball working its way up the back of your throat, making you gag, spitting it out, and then licking it, because its your own.