Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Uninvited (1987)

Given the option, most people would consider themselves to be either dog people or cat people.  Now, there are all-around animal lovers, and people who love both dogs and cats but not other animals (and even other animals but not dogs or cats), but we’re not talking about them.  Personally, I’m a dog person.  Dogs seem to want to be friends (you know, barring the ones that want to take a piece out of you), and they love letting you know it.  They love when you give them some attention, and they’ll wait all day for it, if they have to.  Cats, not so much.  If you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ve seen at least one photo of a cat doing whatever it damn well pleases along with a sentence or two describing how selfish and aloof cats are.  I’ve been around cats that loved being petted.  I’ve been around cats that couldn’t care less if you lived or died, so long as they stayed fed.  But this is the defining difference in the perception of the two animals.  Dogs are seen as warm and friendly.  Cats are their polar opposites.  I don’t think preferring one or the other defines a person in any way whatsoever in the same way I don’t think the animals prefer the type of owner they have if that person simply cares for them.  So, before the five of you who read these reviews decide to bombard me with passive-aggressive hate mail or just your garden variety hate mail (I know, I laughed at the thought of hearing anything from anyone, good or ill, too), kindly bear two things in mind.  One, I know this is not an in-depth dissection of the psychology of our four-legged friends.  It’s not meant to be.  It’s an introduction to a crummy film review.  Two, I do not hate cats.  I simply like dogs more. 

Doctor Grey (director, writer, producer Greydon Clark) and assistant Paul (Paul Martin) work at a genetic testing lab.  Discovering something odd about an orange tabby (I think) called Subject ST-618, they decide to have a look-see, but before they can sedate the little bugger, he manages to get away.  While in pursuit, it’s revealed that there’s an angry, mutant cat monster (cat-ster?) living inside ST, and it swiftly takes out its pursuers and makes good its escape.  Meanwhile, Wall Street honcho Walter Graham (the ever-crusty Alex Cord) and cronies Albert (Clu Gulager) and Mike (George Kennedy) need to cruise to the Cayman Islands before the SEC (that’s the Securities and Exchange Commission, for those who don’t know) can close in on them.  The naturally charming Walt manages to tempt Spring Break bimbos Bobbie (Clare Carey) and Suzanne (Shari Shattuck) aboard his yacht.  Of course, the girls want to bring along more age-appropriate companions in Corey, Lance, and Martin (Rob Estes, Beau Dremann, and Eric Larson, respectively).  As well as a certain orange tabby.

Uninvited has at its center a premise which is both keenly interesting and fundamentally ludicrous.  The cat-ster lives inside the normal cat.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say it wears the cat as a disguise (which I suppose makes some sort of sense from a predatory perspective), making the tabby a kind of Trojan horse.  By that same token, I can’t help but think that this particular mutation would really only be useful in very specific circumstances (say, stuck on a yacht with a bunch of jerks?).  So, was the mutation created to produce some type of living weapon so that the military could just drop cat-sters into the homes of feline-loving despots and let nature take its course?  Was it an unforeseen mutation that still doesn’t make any sense, since it’s the monstrous equivalent of a jack-in-the-box?  In an odd way, the creature is reminiscent of the armpit penis from Cronenberg’s Rabid, but whereas in that film (and in the films of most storytellers presented with a basis like this) the ridiculous aspects were a jumping-off point for the story.  Here, it is the story in total.

Conversely, the aspect of symbiotes and parasites is intriguing as it relates to the characters in the story.  The cat-ster has a kind of symbiotic relationship with the tabby (though, the more I think about it, and not to get too graphic, the cat-ster and cat have a relationship closer to foreskin and penis rather than human and tapeworm).  Just about everyone in the film forms a parasitic relationship with Walt, needing what he has to get what they want or need.  Mike and Albert want money from him.  Rachel (Toni Hudson) wants ownership of her boat from him.  The other guys and gals want to use what he owns to enable their own carefree good time.  Walt, on the other side of this coin, is happy to grant these things, so long as he remains on top and richer than all of them.  He’ll let the others leech him, but he can get rid of them any time he wants, or so he believes (ever tried removing a tick you can’t see?).   

 While these wants (most of which are strictly of the base variety) drive the characters’ actions, it’s also interesting to note that the truly bad characters (creature notwithstanding) are all older.  The young characters are basically dumb and want to get their rocks off and have a good time, and Corey is even outright venal, but they’re not out to hurt anyone.  It’s the older characters who kill to get their way.  Most people’s natural inclination is to look to their elders for proper guidance of some type (at least for a few years).  In Uninvited, however, you can’t trust anyone over thirty.  The filmmakers equate the point-of-view of the film with the film’s target audience.  For my part, I give Clark and company credit for matching up the disparate generations, and the first two-thirds of the film actually works fairly well developing the relationships between the characters and creating some compelling conflicts and foreshadowing.  

The last third of the film, on the other hand, just disintegrates, trying to satisfy generic tropes, both Horror and Exploitation, in general and not quite doing either.  The film’s climax is so farcical and impossible to swallow, I refuse to believe that the filmmakers didn’t go in with that knowledge and just played it up to the nth degree.  The film is still entertaining to some extent.  It has aerobicizing, some wicked hot licks, and Cord, Kennedy, and Gulager in a three-way race to see who can eat every last ounce of the scenery before they all drown.  Plus, the silly cat-ster puppet does have a cheapjack charm all its own.  You know, I thought about writing this review as a dialogue between myself and my dog, Pepper Ann.  In retrospect, I probably should have.   

MVT:  As stated, the cat-ster is pretty neat as a monster.  Despite the monster’s ever-changing size, it’s still the thing I looked forward to seeing most throughout the film (not including the female skin I was deprived of setting eyes on).  The creature looks like a shrunken-head version of King Seesar from Godzilla Versus Mechagodzilla (1974), which is probably why I like it as much as I do, since Seesar was basically a giant dog with a jewel on his forehead.  Irony, no? 

Make Or Break:  The monster makes its presence known on the boat in quasi-spectacular fashion.  There’s a little bit of blood, some chaotic violence, and George Kennedy swinging for the fences of Histrionics Memorial Field.

Score:  6.25/10

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