31 for 31: 'Cat People'

For the whole month of October, our own Kevin Stairiker will be watching a horror movie a day and cataloging his findings in a new feature called “31 for 31.”


Let’s get this out of the way before we begin:

David Bowie did the bitchin’ theme song to the Wynona Ryder-led 1982 remake of “Cat People.” I haven’t seen the remake, but it must be better than the 1942 original, if only because there’s no Bowie in the original.

I don’t regularly have a hard time with older horror films, because it’s fun to transport yourself back to whatever time period the film would have come out in and try to imagine people of the day being scared out of their wits. “Cat People” is a different story. Where I expected ferocious feline murders and spooky settings, I got clunky exposition and lots of cat b-roll.

“Cat People” is a tale of romance disguised as a kind of tragic folk tale. Resident Cat Person Irena Reed doesn’t even know she’s a Cat Person until too late, yet we’re supposed to sympathize with Alice Moore even though she is cheating with the Cat Person’s husband! This same husband who we are introduced to at the film’s beginning, who decides he’s going to date Irena, what, because he likes her panther sketches at the zoo?

The main crux of the film is that when people of an ancient bloodline become aroused, they morph into murderous Cat People. Even for 1942, this is deeply silly. This is showcased to its fullest extent near the end of the film when Irena brings her psychologist (!) home. He kisses her exactly one time, which causes her to turn into a panther and kill him. It isn’t my place to question the timetable of anyone’s sexuality, but come on.

This is all to say nothing of the scene where all the animals in the pet shop go crazy when she walks in, or the zoo animals distrusting her immediately, or even the very beginning when Oliver is completely unfazed my Irena’s ancestry backstory. The best thing I can say about “Cat People” is that it’s only about 70 minutes long, though I can’t say it’s painlessly short.

You’d probably have more fun listening to the David Bowie song 10 times in a row.

By the numbers

Total deaths: 4
Total cats: 11
Total cat people: 1
Warning signs that, hey, maybe your new wife is a Cat Person: 6
Better horror films from 1942: 2*

*(Those being “The Corpse Vanishes” and “The Ghost of Frankenstein.”)

Total movie death count: 137
Watched via: Lancaster Public Library DVD
Worth the watch? No
Arbitrary rating: 1.5/5 lazy panthers


31 for 31 viewing list

  1. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
  2. Cube (1997)
  3. White Zombie (1932)
  4. Demons (Dèmoni) (1985)
  5. Phantasm II (1988)
  6. Kuroneko (1968)
  7. Creepshow (1982) / Creepshow 2 (1987)
  8. 30 Days of Night (2007)
  9. Last Man on Earth (1964)
  10. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  11. Cat People (1942)
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Posted in Articles, Movies

Kevin Stairiker is a features writer for Fly. He is a graduate of Temple University and enjoys writing in third person. When he isn't writing, he's probably playing guitar for a litany of bands, reading comics or providing well-needed muscle at The Double Deuce.

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