Cat People is a horror thriller film directed by Jacques Tourneur in 1942. This film redefined the horror genre in Hollywood and many of the techniques that where used In this film are used in films today. This film runs on imagination showing just enough to get the viewers thinking.
The film Cat People tells the story of a psychologically traumatised young Serbian woman named Irena. Who lives in Manhattan and fears that she will transform into a panther if she is sexually aroused because of an ancient Serbian curse told to her by her ancestors. So when she meets Oliver Reed at the zoo he is drawn to the mysterious women and with in a short while they are married. But there are complications because Irena believes that she is a victim of the curse so their marriage is not consummated. So Oliver understands at first but his patience soon runs out and he sends his with to psychiatrist Dr. Louis Judd. He falls into the welcoming arms of his close female friend Alice Moore for comfort. Over time Irena becomes Jealous of the two and we finally see Irena’s true nature. The final scenes show that she was telling the truth when she is kissed by Dr. Judd she turns into a panther and kills him. The film is 73 minutes long but nothing is wasted from the beginning the tense builds until the finale when Irena is attacked by the panther she lets out of the cage at the zoo.
The film Cat People could be seen as a metaphor for sexual energy you can see this throughout the film. Firstly there is Irena who does not commit to her wifely duties but she is terrified that she will turn into a panther and kill the man she loves. You can see this best in the scene when they return form their marriage celebrations. Secondly it is portrayed by the male characters and I would say even more dangerously because Irena tries to control herself where as the men around her try to advance it needlessly.
But the film also focuses on romantic relationships and complex they are. We see lust when Oliver meets Irena he knew that he had to marry this woman but as time wears off he realise he should be with Alice. We see emotional distancing when Oliver and Alice make Irena an outcast during a visit to a museum.‘the middle-class world appears as a dull, dulling banality whose own self-confidence only partially masks an inability to recognize either its own problems or those of outsiders to its circumscribed value system.’ And there is also abuse of power which is Dr. Judd character shows.
When looking into this film I found this quote by Brandt Sponseller ‘Well, a lot of younger horror fans, for whom the oldest film that they are really familiar with in the genre is something like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) or an even more recent film, might be reluctant to call Cat People a horror film. It is "talky", doesn't contain any graphic violence, and we don't even see a horror creature/villain until just a glimpse near the very end of the film.’ but I disagree with this quote because it is a horror film. It does not have the bloody and violent scenes but it does have the use of darkness and shadow to create creepy scenes, suspense, scary jolts and a lot of dark mysterious thoughts. It mite have a lot of talking but that is important because it is explaining the curse and to get the viewer imagining it.
Cat People has great and memorable scenes which have made this film a classic. ‘Cat People has maintained its ability to scare’. For example the scene where Alice is walking down the street and Irena is following her. It has a great suspense building with every footstep then it suddenly goes silent. This makes for a great setup for a scary jolt made with the sudden appearance of the bus. This technique is still used today in films to make the audience jump out of their skin.I found this one of the best scenes for in this film because it has a great build up of tension and when the bus suddenly appears it had me jumping exactly like Tourneur wanted when he made this film.
Another scene that was memorable was the swimming pool scene in Alice’s apartment in which the light on the pool makes the shadows change from human to cat like making the viewers suspense build. This is just one of the places Tourneur used the technique of darkness and shadows to create a dramatic atmosphere. Where the audience does not know what is going to happen or if anything is going to jump out of somewhere. It’s kind of like the bus scene it has you second- guessing and using your imagination.
I enjoyed watching this film because it wasn’t a horror film filled with graphic violence but it still had me jumping in some parts because of the techniques that where used. It was horror film that suggest more that which is their making this suck a classic to watch.