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Outside of the films of David Cronenberg, I have to admit it isn’t very often I think of Canada when it comes to horror movies. But thanks to my “Fright Night” box set, I’ve discovered a little French/Canadian offering called “Cathy’s Curse” (http://imdb.com/title/tt0075820/).

In the late 1940s, or so one learns from the super-swift opening card, a boy named George Gimble was taken from the family home when his mother suddenly up & left his father one wintry night. Mr. Gimble arrives home that evening to find his daughter, Laura, alone, sitting on her bed with her favourite doll. He asks where her mother & brother are, & when she tells him they’ve gone, he is beyond angry. After telling his daughter her mom’s a bitch, he gets into the car, Laura in tow, & heads off in hot pursuit of his wife.

In one of the most unlikely - or, perhaps, most original - situations I’ve had the occasion to witness, Mr. Gimble swerves to miss a rabbit (yes, a rabbit), & skids off the undoubtedly icy road. He’s knocked unconscious, & a frantic Laura tries to revive him as the car bursts into flames...

Twenty-five or so years later, the now adult George returns to his parents’ house with his own family, wife Vivian & daughter Cathy. Right from the start, Cathy seems perfectly at ease in her new surroundings, which is somewhat more than can be said for Vivian, a constantly agitated (& totally annoying) woman who takes the time to remind her husband she’s already suffered a nervous breakdown, & often acts as if she’s over-due for a relapse.

Following a stint of helping her mother clean, Cathy says she’s tired & makes her way upstairs to lie down. But she ends up in the attic, exploring her dad’s family’s effects, & finds Laura’s doll, as well as a photograph of her aunt, which seems to mesmerise her. When Vivian finds her, she tries to take the doll from Cathy, threatening to burn ‘the filthy thing’.

Later, while Cathy is playing outside with some of the local kids, two women of stature in the town, Mrs. Burton & Agatha, go to visit Vivian. Agatha is a psychic, specialising in psychometry - in short, she’s able to sense things about the owner of an object by touching it. A picture of George’s father catches her eye. Meanwhile, under Cathy’s direction, the children are playing ‘car accident’, re-enacting the crash that killed Laura & her father.

After Agatha has a nearly overwhelming vision of the accident & Cathy, unprovoked, comes close to maiming one of the kids, Vivian finally gets her hands on the doll. Cathy starts screaming & banging her head until she gets it back. But if you think she’s just being bratty, remember that animals can keenly sense when spirit energy is at work. And the house caretaker’s Doberman doesn’t like Cathy one little bit.

It’s fairly obvious what’s causing Cathy’s odd behaviour (& if you haven’t already guessed, there’s one shot in the film that pretty much spells it out for you), which soon enough turns deadly, & gets more outrageous as the story progresses. The housekeeper, the caretaker (who looks like an older, ratty version of Mick Fleetwood, I swear!), Agatha, the dog, & even Cathy’s mother, all fall prey to the forces working through Cathy. And while most of it is predictable, standard fare for this kind of story (except maybe that creepy doll flying through the air & speaking telepathically in a deep, slurry voice), there’s lots of interesting things both on & beneath the surface to keep you entertained (as well as some amusing ones - note the scene in which Cathy teleports several times in her mother’s presence, yet Vivian doesn’t seem to notice).

My only problem with this film was the lack of explanations. Having no idea why anything that’s happening is happening might have worked in “Suicide Circle”, but it falls a little flat here. Not that this impedes on one’s enjoyment of the film, it’s just that, for example, I’d have liked a bit more back story on George’s family. Why did his mother run off so abruptly? More importantly, what prompted her to take George & leave Laura behind? True, Laura seemed to be Daddy’s Girl (even sharing his misogyny - an Electra complex, perhaps?), but still...

Regardless, “Cathy’s Curse” is one of those films I would like to see reach cult status. It certainly has the potential. Best described as “The Bad Seed” meets “Poltergeist” meets “The Exorcist” with a little bit of “The Shining” (& a whole lot of cheeze) thrown in for kicks, it’s freaky, campy fun.

August 2017

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