“Cat in the Brain” – Chris Luedtke

The gore film is arguably one of the most fun genres in cinema history. Its excessive nature and ruthless tactics make mainstream slashers look like the Care Bears. Director Lucio Fulci is one of the most renown masters of gore, most notably for his piece Zombi 2. Cat in the Brain is arguably one of his most bloody films, if not the bloodiest he has ever done. However, in its chainsaw-hacking, eyeball-gouging, non-stop slashing wake, the film leaves very little story and a terrible surprise for those that have not seen Fulci’s full line of work.

Fulci stars in Cat in the Brain as his own overworked self, as he’s shooting yet another horror film. However, Fulci begins to have issues when he starts to see manifestations of his films come to life around him. A man with an axe hacks up a body, food looks like chopped up flesh, and Nazi orgy scenes manifest before his very eyes. The worry for his personal health leads him to Professor Egon Schwarz (David L. Thompson), a fan of Fulci’s work and a man with an evil scheme up his sleeve.

Cat in the Brain leaves little to be desired for gorehounds. If you have the stomach for this film, Cat in the Brain will make you squirm with delight as children’s heads are chainsawed off, girls are stabbed to death in showers, and people are generally dismembered/disemboweled left and right. The satisfaction it offers in the way of serving up blood is only rivaled by Peter Jackson’s masterwork Dead Alive and H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator. Unfortunately, both of these films have what Cat in the Brain lacks — an interesting plot.

The first time I watched this film, I was bored out of my mind, so I gave it a second shot after reading Eli Roth’s little essay on the misunderstood artist known as Fulci. During my second viewing, I was bored out of my mind. The plot is rivaled by the excitement of baked beans; it just takes too long for anything to happen. Sure, Fulci has done some pretty good films (Zombi 2, House by the Cemetery), but Cat in the Brain has a huge drawback besides boredom — stock footage. If one hasn’t seen more of his flexography, one wouldn’t even notice it, but scenes from films such as Sodoma’s Ghost have been recycled for our viewing pleasure. Sure, it works in the film, but it doesn’t enhance anything. In fact, I found it rather irritating to know I had been cheated during portions of Cat in the Brain. Is it the work of laziness or originality? Both, I’d have to say.

The authenticity of Fulci’s insanity just doesn’t feel right. His lame acting is staler than closet cardboard. There were times I swore he was asking a question when he meant to form a sentence. It also doesn’t help that he runs around in a half shriek for most of the film saying, “I didn’t kill them! I didn’t kill them!” Still, it is entertaining to watch the people around him meet their demise. The sheer B-ness of the film is something to smile at.

If you make the decision to check out Cat in the Brain, just do it for the gore. B-horror has few films to display in the way of impressive or interesting stories. Cat in the Brain is no exception in this tradition. Fulci had a decent idea going, but it just came out sloppy.

Rating: ★★☆☆

-Chris Luedtke

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