Thursday, May 21, 2009

Film Review: THE BLACK CAT (2007, Stuart Gordon)

Stars: 3.5 of 5.
Running Time: 58 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Jeffrey Combs.
Tag-lines: None.
Best one-liner: Anything with "Eddie" in it.

As a film, Stuart Gordon's THE BLACK CAT is a mixed bag. As a "Masters of Horror" episode, it's top-notch. THE BLACK CAT's been tackled by everyone from Argento to Fulci to Edgar Ulmer. There have been faithful adaptations, and there have been total reworkings that lose EVERYTHING except the title, and maybe an appearance by the eponymous feline (if we're lucky). How does Gordon's stack up? Pretty well.

The good: A. Jeffrey Combs. His performance is truly transformative. The man IS Poe. And it's not just the makeup and prosthetics- only fleetingly do you catch traces of the Jeffrey Combs we know and love beneath the tortured exterior.

And to think I'd just been saying that I'd love to see him play another drunk after CASTLE FREAK. B. The visuals. Gordon uses a muted color palette except for vivid blood-reds and sharp cat's eye-yellows. It looks great. C. Doing something new with the story, and making it relate to Poe's life. Though it steers hilariously close to YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES when, for example, Poe's wife calls him "Eddie." (*It must be noted that he historically answered to the nickname Eddie, but that doesn't make this any less hilarious.)

The bad: I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Stu, could ya lay off the CGI? I'm not suggesting animal cruelty for a certain eye-gouging scene or an actual victim for the axe to the head, and I understand you're under time constraints for these gigs, but surely you could've done something with a puppet or prosthetics or SOMETHING. The CGI just really takes me out of the movie, and definitely moreso than stop motion or rockin' 80's makeup FX. (*It must also be noted that there's a lot of great traditional makeup FX in this episode, it's simply these two brief examples that took me out of the episode.)

And, also, I've seen so many adaptations at this point, it's SLIGHTLY difficult for me to get it up for THE BLACK CAT these days, but this version really makes me want to, so, I'd say if this at all sounds up your alley, you'll probably enjoy it.

-Sean Gill

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