From the initial frame, this film has class written all over it. With all respect, this film has one of the best and imaginative opening credit sequences I've seen. The silhouettes of the prowling cats with the double exposure process set the perfect mood for the film. Then into the split and multi-frame sequences. The director David Rich uses this technique flawlessly. It was like watching a living comic.
Luckily, for the viewer, Rich isn't afraid of trying different styles and methods. He films the story beautifully. Using varying camera angles, lighting, and colour to their maximum effects. The scene where Kassia, Gayle Hunnicutt, steals into the aunt's bedchamber is deliciously superb. The upward angle in combination with the amber glow from the table lamp illuminates Kassia's face and intention perfectly. There's a myriad of similar scenes throughout the movie.
One thing that stood out to me was the colourisation. Everything is so vivid, rich, and lush. The grass isn't greener on the other side - it's greener here. I loved this. Most director's film horror in dark and shadowy tones, especially wishy-washy greys and grey-blues (yawn). This is more than a breath of fresh air, it's an adrenalin shot in the arse which I wish more filmmakers in the genre would take. Rich illuminates the nighttime scenes and gloomy rooms exactly right. You can distinguish shapes, people, and colours.
David Rich should be very proud of this film. Doubly so, as he also sets the pace of the film excellently. Slowing down and speeding up at the right time, dependent on the atmosphere he's creating. He is also very adept at handling different genres. His comedic timing is spot on, though it's only here to elicit a smile and not a guffaw. His action sequences are decent too. The cat-fight is awesome. It's chiefly the actor and actresses in the scene who are responsible. Jennifer Leak as Poor Dear doesn't hold back any punches, scratches, or hair-pulling. I literally felt sorry for Gayle Hunnicutt in this scene.
I always thought Michael Sarrazin should have been a bigger star than he was. That said, he's not the strongest member of the cast here. However, it might be because of the strangeness of his character, Wylie, itself. It makes it hard to relate to him, which is a shame as he's the lead. Gayle Hunnicutt gives her best performance I've seen to date. But the best cast members are Jennifer Lean, though you see little of her, and the oh so beautiful and sensuous Eleanor Parker as Aunt Danny. She oozes lust, want, and need whenever her nephew Wylie appears. It's uncomfortable to see this incestuous infatuation.
So why isn't it a perfect film? Well, let's talk story.
Here are the elements. A broken and dysfunctional family. A long-lost love - a nephew. The chance to steal a fortune legally, via a change in aunties will. A cold-hearted plan to kill auntie. A twist within a twist. And possibly supernatural cats. There's a lot to weave into the story and writer Joseph Stefano nearly pulls it off. However, it's this closeness that disjoints the story. Stefano should have either left the supernatural side alone completely or dived right in. His "On The Fence" stance only adds a hesitation to the whole proceedings, especially the ending. This is the only real drawback to the film, which is slight and shouldn't deter from your enjoyment too much. It didn't with me.
Hence, I highly recommend this to lovers of thrillers & mysteries and fans of supernatural chillers. Should you be a wanna-be filmmaker then you too should check out this title. This shows what movies can be when you use imagination, structure, and ingenuity.
Story 1.25 : Direction 1.75 : Pace 1.5 : Acting 1.5 : Enjoyment 1.5 : Total 7.5 / 10
Prowl on over to my The Game Is Afoot and Killer Thriller Chillers and Monstrous and Absolute Horror lists to see where this purrrrrrfect little film charts.