She has the power... to terrorize.
Year of Release: 1977
Running Time: 91 minutes (1:31)
Director: Eddy Matalon
Alan Scarfe ... George Gimble
Beverly Murray ... Vivian Gimble
Randi Allen ... Cathy Gimble
Roy Witham ... Paul
Dorothy Davis ... Mary
Mary Morter ... Medium
A bleak and foggy evening back in 1935. Joan Gimble packed her bags, took her young son George by the hand, abandoned her husband Bernard, and small daughter, Laura. The pain caused by Joan's betrayal of her family was very short-lived. That same evening, Bernard and Laura died in a terrifying automobile accident.
It is now some thirty years later. George returns to the familiar surroundings of his boyhood home. With him is his wife, Vivian, and their eight-year-old daughter, Cathy. Their dream is to recapture the peace and contentment they knew before Vivian lost her baby son during childbirth. To have a child was the couple's fondest wish. After the miscarriage, Vivian suffered a shattering nervous breakdown.
Within days, a series of diabolical and inexplicable events occur. The Gimbles find the bloodied and battered body of their housekeeper, Mary, on the patio. The family dog dies of a terrible disease. One of Cathy's playmates falls to the ground writhing in pain, with blood streaming from her eyes.
From this gripping tale of death emerges a web of terror too horrible to contemplate. The Gimble family are torn apart, their ultimate dreams transformed into nightmares of excruciating horror. An ordinary family dogged in their footsteps by evil. Their every movement taking them to the very brink of an abyss of terror from which there is no return.
What is the reason beyond this terrifying tale...?
As the Gimbles try to find an answer, they are surrounded by events so horrific as to be beyond all human powers of contemplation. From every side they are engulfed by floods of evil.
The answer to their nightmare lies in Cathy's Curse!
Cathy's Curse, remindin' us never to date anyone who can see an object's complete history just by touchin' it.
And speakin' of takin' matters into your own hands, I'm feelin' spiritually renewed this week after participatin' in an increasingly rare drive-in ritual we like to call "pence for repentance," which, without gettin' too technical, is basically the practice of repayin' one's debt to Drive-In Jesus after tryna stiff His messenger in the ticket booth. I say it's rare 'cause most people 'round here know about the pitchfork spike strip just inside the cattleguard and understand that if Tetnis is workin' the booth and catches ya tryna sneak in he'll prolly beat ya half to death with a tire tool and then send ya a thousand dollar bill for treatin' your contusions. Fortunately, every now and then an ignorant, unsaved foreigner decides to play chicken with fate.
The particular lost soul in question claimed to be in town visitin' relatives, although we were never able to verify this 'cause nobody was willin' to risk their family honor by admittin' to know the scab. Lucky for him Billy Hilliard was workin' the booth Friday night instead of Tetnis, and so the heretic was able to stand for trial instead of gettin' both his legs broke in a genteel Christian manner. Normally I wouldn't reveal this kinda information to a buncha foreigners like yourselves, but over the years I've decided that you guys're some of the good ones - so don't go givin' me any reasons to reassess that conclusion.
Now, typically, once the accused has been securely tied to the screen's right support post (ie - the witness stand), a trial is hastily convened in an effort to minimize the time Juanita hasta be away from the grill in the concession stand, and to avoid delayin' the start of the first feature when possible. Charges are then drawn up by the accuser and considered by the court's five judges (myself, and the honorable Justices Hilliard, Tetnis, Hernandez, and Hernandez) until either a verdict is reached or we get bored.
Professional courtesy forbids me from publishin' a transcript before its been officially drawn up, but I'll go ahead and provide a cliffs notes version as a cautionary tale for anyone thinkin' about comin' into Drive-In Jesus's house and desecratin' his altar.
"State your fool name for reycord," Chief Justice Skunky instructed.
"When I get loose you're all gonna--" the accused started sayin'.
"Baileef, please jog accused's memory," Skunky interrupted.
Tetnis got up from his lawn chair and poured a cup of molten nacho cheese down the guy's throat with an oil funnel outta the back of his Dodge Dude, sendin' a cascade of tears and snot streamin' down the defendant's face.
"Sir, I ame patient main, but unlike you, freends een gallery paid for double feature and they ees, to put lightly, peesed," Skunky continued.
"Dallas Chintzley," the wretch managed between hacking gasps.
"Thank you for cooperation. Baileef, put out fire," Skunky ordered.
Tetnis stuffed a hand fulla snow down Dallas' throat and returned to his seat.
"Excellente. Now, Mr. Cheentzley, you ees accuse of... hang on... let me find notes... hiding wife een trunk?!" Skunky gasped in disbelief.
"Kill 'im!" Marla Ostman shrieked from the third row.
"Killins too good for 'im! Cut off his nuts and deep fry 'em!" Bev Spatz suggested.
"Send the little peckerwad this way, I'll teach 'im some manners!" Peggy Pogue snarled as Rocky did his best to hold 'er back while avoidin' a mule kick in the gondolas.
"Ordare!" Skunky shouted, slappin' his judicial mallet against a piece of bubble wrap. "Justice Heel'yar, ees thees true?"
"Yuh. She wuv undow a wode map," Billy confirmed.
"You're all insane! It was only a lousy buck for God's sake!" Dallas insisted, the nacho sauce induced inflammation reducing his defiant scream to a pitiful squeak.
"So your defense is that you wedged your wife between the jack and antifreeze jug in order to save one dollar? If I was you I'd claim incompetent counsel and ask for a mistrial," I snickered.
"Can I do that?" Dallas asked.
"No!" Skunky growled, firin' corneal lasers in my direction.
"Have you anytheen eentelligent to say een your defense? I need to geet burgares on the greel," Juanita asked.
"I'll take a coupla those!" Satchel Gast hollered.
"Me too! And a 32oz Pole Cat!" Buzz McCulloch added.
"What can I get for 80 cents?" Rusty Dockweiler yelled.
"Lost!" Juanita scoffed. "I haff work to do - guilty," she declared before headin' back towards the concession stand.
"Come on you guys, gimmie a break! She's never complained before!" Dallas asserted.
"Before?" Tetnis spat, reachin' for Skunky's "gavel."
"I mean... it's rough out there. I never forced her--" he whined.
"Bullshit!" came a rebuttal from somewhere in the crowd. "I ate off the kids' menu until I was 25!"
It was Dallas's wife.
"Everywhere we go I have to pretend it's my birthday, and when I needed gall bladder surgery he tried to check me in at a St. Jude Children's Hospital!" she roared.
Once all the women in the audience'd been securely locked in their cars for the accused's safety, the court returned a unanimous guilty verdict and Chief Justice Skunky ordered the Real P.O.'d Housewives of Chickawalka County released for the reading of the verdict.
"Dallas Cheentzley, you haff been found guilty of fleecing drive-een and felony spousal humiliation, and ees hereby ordared to repay your debt. Eeny last works before seentence ees passed?" Skunky asked.
He had quite a few, but none I'm gonna repeat here where somebody's mama might read it.
Payin' back the buck he'd scammed us out of didn't take long at all, what with Skunky chargin' a quarter a snowball to anyone who wanted to pelt the tool from ten paces, although one could argue that it was a little unsportsmanlike leavin' his arms and legs tied to the pillar that way.
By the end of the night we'd raised enough scratch to hire Cletus Rubenstein to handle the divorce proceedins on Miranda's behalf, but I'm pretty sure Dallas ain't gonna have much use for a second marriage given the area specifically targetted by mosta the drive-in patrons of the female persuasion. I'm not sayin' I sympathize with the guy exactly, but if you've never tried reviewin' a movie against the backdrop of a man havin' his genes spliced I'm here to tell ya - it's hard not to at least empathize.
After awhile I hadda crank the volume up about 30% higher'n normal just to drown out all the bawlin', and between that and the sub-freezin' temperatures, I think it was prolly the first night I can recall never seein' a single a car rockin' or a hint of window fog. It's a damn good thing we programmed two solid flicks for the night or the situation coulda turned ugly. Cathy's Curse is sorta like The Exorcist, only when the little girl in this flick gets possessed she still hasta be polite 'cause the flick was made in Canada; so she doesn't use the f-word or do anything with crucifixes that might upset the Archdiocese of Montreal and lead to riots that could turn the maple syrup industry on its ear. I mean, yeah, it's a clone, but it's ridin' the coattails of what're probably the two best demon-child flicks of all time - The Exorcist, and The Omen, so it's got that goin' for it despite an inexcusable lack of Italian blasphemers on set whisperin' sacrilegious ideas into the ear of the director.
Regardless, the '70s were *the* decade for obnoxious devil children, so to commemorate Canada's contribution I've dredged up a few of the flick's more teachable moments to set the mood and prepare everyone for the unbridled heckraisin' about to be unleashed upon them. First, hatred is learned, not inherited - except when you get possessed by the spirit of a vengeful, bitter aunt who died in a car wreck. Second, bein' possessed by P.O.'d preteen spirits will generally get you excused from school with minimal blowback. And third, outdoor tea party planners holding events in January are likely to be met with many, many snowchecks.
The movie begins with a man who's clearly lost control of his mustache runnin' into a house to collect his daughter before his estranged wife can trade 'er for lottery tickets, only by that time the broad's already kidnapped the girl's kid brother and so they go haulin' off after 'er in their 1940 Plymouth Roadking until a lepus pedestrius hops out into the road and they end up swervin' into a ditch and gettin' fried into Canadian bacon while Jay Leno weeps uncontrollably. Next thing it's 30 years later and the dead girl's little brother (George) is fleeing the rigors of city life and movin' back into the old family homestead with his wife (Vivian) and kid (Cathy) over concerns about the Quebec Liberation Front and the rogue moose epidemic that's sent Vivian semi-scooters following a traumatic miscarriage. 'Course the first order of business is openin' up the windows to air out the smell of 1940s bridge parties, but while Viv's scoopin' all the dead drain moths outta the light fixtures, Cathy wanders up to the 3rd floor and finds a storage room with an artist's rendering of the kid from the Omen after gender reassignment surgery hangin' on the wall and stares at it like it just ordered 'er to eat 'er brussels sprouts. Then the neighborhood welcoming committee shows up with their resident psychic (Agatha) whose eyes're never in the same zip code and she starts fondlin' family photos of George's pop until she relives his final moments and has a Big Mac attack.
While that's goin' on, Cathy's out in the yard directin' 'er own production of Bakespeare in the Park with the neighborhood children reenactin' the events of the family barbecue until she gets fed up with 'er lead and makes 'er eyes bleed like she was just forced to thumb through the apparel section of the 1976 Sears Roebuck catalog. Adjoining property values continue to slide as Cathy begins totin' around a moldy old doll with its eyes stitched shut as she tests the bounds of Canadian politeness by explodin' nekkid Greek figurines and talkin' like the devil after an atomic melvin and other stuff likely to result in a strongly worded letter from the local Home Owner's Association signed by 28 people with strong opinions about how to handle the Indigenous Canadian situation. This goes on awhile until finally Cathy uncorks 'er pineal pulse projectiles into the maid's brain and convinces 'er she can recapture 'er youth by balcony diving. Viv's the only one who thinks it's strange for someone to take up mosh pitting at 75 even before factoring in the absence of a pit, so she asks Cathy if she saw what happened but Cathy just teleports all around the room before shakin' Viv's nerves and rattlin' 'er drapes until she melts into a dysfunction puddle and hasta go to the psych ward to get 'er hard drive defragmented. So by this point the only remainin' babysittin' option is the gangling old groundskeeper (Paul) who looks like he's been stayin' one step ahead of the law by train hoppin' across the country since 1927, but Cathy takes a shine to 'im and the two of 'em sit in the attic stairwell all evenin' seein' how much Canadian Club a man can drink before his liver spontaneously combusts until Agatha comes by and the two of 'em have a real nice time expressing their shared belief that the old bat spent so much time in the Expos locker room that they retired *her* jersey till she finally gets P.O.'d and leaves.
Unfortunately, now Cathy ain't got anyone left to torment, and so she summons a buncha snakes and rats and tarantulas to crawl all over Paul while he sits at the kitchen table lookin' like he's eighth in line to use the bathroom at Taco Bell. Then George comes home from work and chugs a poutine shake and hits the sack but Cathy can't sleep 'cause Paul's dog's outside barkin' at the moon like Ozzy Osbourne and that makes 'er so mad that 'er eyes start bulgin' out like a pug that hiked its leg on a frozen hydrant and came down with a case of chilly willie. The next mornin' George finds the dog unresponsive and slathered in red velvet cake mix and Paul's so grief-stricken that he tries to take away Cathy's doll 'cause it reminds 'im of the pupper's old sock monkey tug toy. Trouble is, his blood alcohol content is still somewhere between "Spring Break in Lauderdale" and "Canadiens just won the Stanley Cup," and so he's too drunk to realize that even puttin' a hand on the thing is gonna make his paw look like it went through the roast beef slicer at Arby's and by the time he figures that out the sight of his open-faced club handwich makes 'im so sick that he regurgitates his own appendix. Then Agatha comes by to do some more meddlin' and Cathy lures 'er into the attic to show 'er what she'd look like if Robert Englund did 'er makeup till she gets so freaked out that she decides to take a job with the Psychic Friends Network where the worst thing she's likely to encounter are the private thoughts of fat bald guys from Moose Jaw usin' 'er as a cut-rate phone sex operator.
Elsewhere, the doctors've written Viv off as a compulsive Prozac seeker and decided to cut 'er loose, only when George brings 'er home Cathy locks 'er out like a Jehovah's Witness before goin' down to the park where the spirit of Attica Christie tells 'er to take the polar plunge, and by the time George gets 'er home she's colder'n the bottom of the puck. Needless to say, Viv's about ready to pack up all 'er stuff and book a flight to Amityville where life's less chaotic, and so George tries explainin' that she's just bein' emotional and that she'd feel a lot better if she'd stop havin' so many feelins and sign up for a pottery class at the community college or somethin', but she refuses to see reason and decides to take a bath in a tub fulla blood and leeches to avoid upsettin' the family dynamic. Now Paul hasta split his eggs between two basket cases, and later that night when he goes upstairs to check on Viv he finds 'er issuin' orders to unseen forces like a drill sergeant in an Alzheimer's ward until finally she tells 'im their only hope of gettin' the demonically possessed child back to base level pre-teen evil is to make like the doll's an overturned car at a hockey riot and torch the sucker. I don't wanna risk ruinin' the ending so I'm gonna zip it right now, but if you think the Scabbage Patch Kid is gonna just let somebody stuff her raggedy can in the toaster oven you've got another thing comin'.
Alrighty, so I know whatcher prolly thinkin' - Canada, late '70s, must be a tax shelter era classic, right? I thought so too. Even after ya see an entire credit scrawl fulla names that sound like they're on the rebound from a failed bid to secure the Pepe Le Pew gig you rationalize this and explain it away as a product of filmin' in Montreal and your hopes continue to soar right up until the dialogue starts and you realize the guys who wrote it are actually France French. Why's that matter? Well, Quebec teaches English as a secondary language in schools and borders provinces that speak English as a primary language, so if the film's writers are French Canadian rather'n French classic, there's a chance the dialogue won't sound like it was written by a robot usin' translation software from 1962.
Still, the stilted language does lead ya inexorably into one of the great philosophical debates of international trash cinema, that being: which combination is better - foreign writers with English actors, or foreign actors with English dubbing? There's no right answer, of course, and the debate between academics on both sides will likely rage on until you and I're dust on the surface of a cruel and indifferent world whose sun will eventually wink out with little to no fanfare from the rest of the galaxy, but in the meantime, it's crucial to know which side you fall on, as it could lead to irreconcilable differences in future romantic entanglements.
It's hard to believe that there're still people in this day and age who've gone their entire lives without bein' confronted by this issue, but I think we all know somebody who, perhaps through no fault of their own, has managed to fall through the cracks and remains uncommitted. So, very briefly, in the interest of learnin' somethin' new about ourselves, I wantcha to read the two following statements and decide for yourselves where you stand on this controversial triviality by selecting the option that best fits your position:
1) I prefer that a film's dialogue be delivered with the utmost clarity even if it sounds like part of a Coneheads skit from Saturday Night Live circa 1978.
2) I don't care if people's lips're still movin' ten minutes after the dialogue stops or whether the emotion with which it is delivered has been chosen at random so long as it makes grammatical sense.
Everybody made their selection? Good deal. Now all you #1s try to stick to your own gene pool.
Anyway, what we've got here are a buncha concepts and set pieces cobbled together from The Exorcist, The Omen, and Carrie, but without the slick cinematography and big budgets those titles enjoyed. Now, it should be said that these limitations don't necessarily pose a problem for a horror flick produced in the grittiest of decades, and in fact, given the right tone and willingness to go places the mainstream studios won't, there's an excellent opportunity for lower budget films to create something memorable and unique even while riding the coattails of popular trends. Unfortunately, these filmmakers didn't make much of an effort to turn that weakness into a strength, and surprisingly, all three of the aforementioned studio features contain scenes far more graphic and disturbing than anything Cathy's Curse has to offer.
Regardless, we're gonna take a closer look at this one just in case there's some hidden meanin' embedded in there somewhere, but I don't see it measurin' up to any of the great Montreal classics like Rabid, or Beyond the Green Door. The plot sets itself up to be character driven but never takes the time to explain the motives of the dead girl runnin' amok inside the body of her would-be niece; choosing instead to jump from one supernatural occurrence to the next without clarifying why any of it is happening, what the spirit's objective is, or why the kid's so all-fired powerful. The script also seems confused about how Cathy came to be possessed by the spirit, as it takes hold while she's starin' at a portrait on the wall, only to later have the deceased child's doll take center stage as the most likely suspect. Characters that seem destined for some importance vanish anticlimactically, others meet their end in gruesome fashion without raising the concern of those who remain, and all of it happens because of a child who doesn't realize it's possible to exit a burning car through her own door rather than the one her father's prone body is trapped against. Essentially it's a "stuff happens" movie where the writer launches continuous volleys of supernatural chicanery at ya hoping nobody'll notice that nothing makes any sense, but unfortunately, the more sensational elements are too tame for that approach to work.
The already weak acting is amplified by the stilted, unnatural dialogue, and this issue poisons the well for the entire film from start to finish. It's possible that there's a chicken and egg situation goin' on here, wherein the actors realize that all the awkward language is going to lead to a negative audience reaction and thus see no reason to give their all, but whatever the case Beverly Murray seems particularly inexperienced and incapable of expressing proper emotion much of the time. Randi Allen, on the other hand, proves shockingly adequate given that she only accepted the role to help with her family's struggling finances and had never acted before (or since), but the only good performances come from Mary Morter as the nosy psychic, Peter MacNeill as the foul-mouthed, P.O.'d father who collects his daughter only to kill them both moments into the flick, and Roy Witham as the alcoholic groundskeeper whose suspicions about the visually-impaired ragdoll get the better of him.
Here's who matters and why: Alan Scarfe (Earthsea, Without Warning 1994, Murder by Phone), Beverly Murray (The Carpenter), Dorothy Davis (The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Shivers, Night Fright), Mary Morter (The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane), Roy Witham (The Agency), Sonny Forbes (Scanners, Shivers, Ilsa the Tigress of Siberia, Rabid), Robert V. Girolami (Rabid), Renee Girard (The Uncanny 1977), Peter MacNeill (The Exorcism of Molly Hartley, Bag of Bones, Resurrection 1999, Body Parts, Rabid), Hubert Noel (The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Devils of Darkness).
And the mainstream credits: Peter MacNeill (Mr. Edison on The Edison Twins, Sgt. Callahan on Rin Tin Tin: K-9 Cop, Ray Donahue on PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, Detective Carl Horvath on Queer as Folk, Ken Fitzpatrick on Call Me Fitz, Gerald Lawson on This Life, George O' Hanrahan on Good Witch).
The special effects are mediocre and what little blood makes it on screen looks a lot like model paint. It's both bright and thick to the point that it often doesn't even run, with the exception of the scene where gallons of it are pouring out of the bathtub faucet - although the leeches in that scene are alright. There're also a coupla fairly gooey facial appliances - the first being applied to Mary Morter and forming a respectable piece of proto-Freddy burn makeup. The second is worn by Randi Allen during the climax, but they went too far tryna turn her into a scorched marshmallow and it's a bit silly. For the teleportation scenes they just used your basic Bewitched style jump cuts with the actors held perfectly in position, and for the most part, it works, but the successful optical trickery ends there, as an unforeseen downside of the flick being cleaned up and re-released on DVD is that now all the strings you probably couldn't see on an old beat up VHS tape are very visible.
The shooting locations are alright, although you kinda get the feeling watching the movie that they may not have been utilized to their fullest. I think the one problem with the interiors is that nearly all the walls are covered with wonderfully gaudy wallpaper that, while nostalgically potent, is emblazoned with bright, cheerful colors that don't lend themselves to the idea that there's a little girl possessed by the spirit of a P.O.'d pre-teen livin' there. The exteriors of the house have a much more stern, forboding look about them, and the bleak Montreal/Westmount winter months and varying degrees of snow present in most scenes would likely create a feeling of frosty hostility if not for all the scenes where the kids are playing outside seemingly unaffected by the weather. It's a bizarre choice in a long string of them when you pass up the opportunity to create a scenario where the weather is holding the adults captive with the demon spawn, but it is what it is. Still, the winter atmosphere is nice, and the house is cool even if it's not a great fit for the flick.
The soundtrack is the film's high point and utilizes the piano, organ, and synthesizer to great effect. There isn't a lot of variety, but the scoring never becomes tiresome due to the editors' refusal to include music unless a scene actually warrants it, and the guys doing the cutting seem to have a pretty good grasp of track placement. All the music is superbly gloomy, foreboding, and although it's possible that the resemblance is only superficial on the basis that the composer uses the same instruments, the scoring is similar to those of House by the Cemetery and Pieces, but with the caveat that this film was released first. Far and away the most enjoyable aspect of the movie, so much so that it periodically creates moments of tension and even the occasional feeling of dread in a movie flick that doesn't make a lick of sense. It may very well break into the top 25 scores for '70s horror flicks - very underrated.
Overall, Cathy's Curse goes for flash over substance only to have the flash fizzle. There's too much that doesn't make sense, the acting is shaky, the special effects mediocre, and no new ground is broken despite an opportunity to make a grittier, nastier possession flick that rides the successes of recent Hollywood offerings. Fans of demonic possession movies should probably still check it out, but if you're looking for a movie that takes the concept to the next disgusting level you'll wanna go with somethin' like Enter the Devil, Beyond the Door, or basically anything the Italians made in the wake of The Exorcist. They know their demons in Italy, after all.