25th August 2011
This summer, my interest was peaked by the coming of the horror film The Cat and it inspired the post where I looked at some of the feline ghosts in Korean cinema’s past. Then I read some reviews about the film and decided to skip it in the theaters. Yesterday, I saw that it was on Hana TV. Hana TV has been doing an excellent site of getting films quickly after finishing their theatrical run and I can see them at half the price as I can in the theater. Link and Beast were just released a month ago but Hana TV already has them available on demand! Anyway, this isn’t an ad for Hana TV… this is about The Cat. My expectations going in were cautiously hopeful…maybe not as high as they were at the beginning of the summer, though. The movie had opened on July 7th and disappeared from theaters by the end of that same month with less than seven hundred thousand tickets sold. But, regardless of the fact that the film was not a box office smash, I am happy to say that I enjoyed it very much. It manages to build suspense quite well and maintain it throughout the film. Too many times I am enjoying a ghost story only to find that once we learn what is motivating the spirit to torment the living, it becomes far less frightening. The Cat does not suffer from this as we do not learn what is driving the ghost until the very end and immediately following the reveal, we are given a satisfying ending.
The main character of the film is a pet store employee and animal lover named So-yeon played by Park Min-yeong. On the surface, she appears slightly shy–perhaps relating better to animals than people– sensitive and kind-hearted. The crush she has on her friends ex-boyfried Joon-seok is very well handled and serves to underline her shynes. However, she has a darker side as well. So-yeon suffers from out of control claustrophobia. Her fear of enclosed places is so severe that she cannot take an elevator or ride the subway. She has even removed the door to her bedroom so she can sleep. The medication and counselling she is receiving does not seem to help. The other secret she is keeping is that her father is shut away in a mental hospital. She does not care to visit him and fears that she may wind up like him. Her fears may be valid as she begins seeing a terrifying vision of a part cat/part girl that seem anything but benign. I liked this aspect of the character as it presents a possibilty that the events happening onscreen are all in her head and that she, in fact, could be responsible for the deaths of a number of people who all had recent contact with her.
Little girl ghosts may seem a bit cliche in Asian cinema since Ring, and Phone, and Dark Water but Kim Ye-ron does a good job of keeping her phantom fresh. (Incidently, if you have not seen the original Japanese film of Dark Water directed by Hideo Nakata, do it now! It is nothing like the unfortunate American remake). The ghost appears to switch back and forth between the forms of a young girl and a domestic cat. The questions are who is the girl and what is her motive? As it is with real cats, what this ghost girl/cat does is often a mystery that only becomes clear later in the story. Of aspect of her motives is clear immediately– Don’t do anything to harm cats or you will find yourself facing and unforgiving and terrifying visitor.
While there may not be enough to The Cat to elevate it to the levels of horror films like A Tale of Two Sisters or Ring, it is still a competent and satisfying movie– and one of the better Korean horror films released in recent years. Watch for its DVD release!