Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cathy's Curse aka Cauchemares

As a young teenager, I used to use my good report cards as opportunities to get a gift from Borders. This typically involved me wandering down the horror aisle and picking up a paperback based on the cover. Quite a few featured what I assumed to be a poorly selling QVC doll holding a kitchen knife (possibly purchased as a discounted package in the final minutes of the 3AM sale). These novels were never particularly good, but my lingering pediophobia allowed the stories--usually about single mothers trying to protect their little girls from possession by a mysteriously lost-and-found porcelain doll--to be worth that A in Algebra. 
Cathy’s Curse has the feel of a crappy paperback novel, but minus the hand of a mediocre editor. Made in Quebec in 1977, it’s notable for having the most extreme spray tan you’ve ever seen to coat a film. (I could blame my 13 cent Mill Creek 50 pack edition, but I’m pretty sure this film has never looked good. But you know, it’s kind of like Ryan Seacrest. The first couple times you look at it, you’re completely distracted by the orange glow radiating from the center. Eventually, you realize there are bigger problems before you.) 

Quick Plot: A mother walks out on her husband and daughter (but keeps the son, because, as we’re quite often reminded, “she’s a bitch!”). We never discover why Mama B abandoned half her family, but I assume her potty mouthed husband and creepy doll-and-rabbit-loving daughter had something to do with it. 

Anyway, leftover family unit drives recklessly after the first half but are thwarted by a bunny in the road and die in a horrid car explosion. Not an awful start to what we know will not be a good movie. Flash thirty years or so later, and the surviving son returns home with his new terrible actress of a wife and boring little daughter (don’t worry, she’s about to get much more interesting). A quick backstory of the family follows (“You know and I know that I’ve had a nervous breakdown!”) along with Cathy’s discovery and immediate kinship with a nasty little doll. Before long, Cathy is speaking like Marlena when she was possessed by the devil on Days of Our Lives, calling every woman she sees a bitch/whore/filthy female cow, and playing Let’s Reenact How My Aunt/Possessing Spirit Died/the All Women Are Bitches Accident Game with the less than enthusiastic neighborhood kids. 
Obviously, it only gets better from here. The highlight of the film for me was Roy Witham’s Dickensian caretaker Paul, aKa the coolest babysitter on the block. How much do I love a film that features a little girl and an old British man drinking whiskey and calling a concerned neighbor a “dirty old whore?” A lot. I love it a lot. Especially when said scene concludes with tarantulas, snakes, and whatever else the local pet shop provided crawling over the old man in a scene that feels as stretched as the spider death in Fulci’s The Beyond.
High Points
Any doll with eyes sewn closed gets at least one round of goosebumps from me. 

Little Randi Allen’s clear enjoyment of being allowed to curse in numbers that would make Margaret Cho blush.
Low Points
The doll doesn’t talk. Or move. Or curse. Sigh. I would have traded my Wedding Day Midge to hear “Make us laugh, you filthy bitch!” come out of a porcelain mouth, but alas, no movie is perfect.
Remember the scene in Airplane where the woman whose husband never drinks coffee starts freaking out and screaming “I gotta get out of here” over and over again? That’s basically Beverly Murray’s performance as Cathy’s mentally unstable mother.
The Winning Line:
“Medium? I’d say extra rare piece of shit!”
I now have added to My List of Things To Do In Life Before I Die: Go to psychic, become enraged, and shout these words. Or have a 10 year old daughter and make her do it, because it’s much funnier that way. 
Lessons Learned:
Do not kiss little girls, particularly if their mommies tell you they hate being kissed.

All women are bitches, but dogs that bark are stupid bitches.
Nervous breakdowns are not contagious, but they will eff up your daughter pretty badly.
Alcoholic caretakers make adequate babysitters.
Not a new lesson in horror, but this film does offer further proof that all children with straight blond hair are evil

Buy Cheap
I watched this as part of Mill Creek’s 50 Chilling Classics pack, a set that I can’t recommend highly enough. The quality is off, but since you’re spending about 15-80 cents on this movie, depending on your purchase, it’s certainly worth a viewing. Don’t expect miracles, but do enjoy a good time.


  1. *sniffles* You had me at old British man and a little girl drinking whiskey and calling some neighbor lady a "dirty old whore". I MUST find this movie.

  2. It's a classic. Should still be on the Mill Creek 50 Chilling Classics pack. I'm guessing it's public domain, which is truly a gift to mankind.