From the nation that created 1979’s Mad Max and 2005’s Wolf Creek, Australia brings Cat Sick Blues. Kicked about on the festival circuit since 2015, it won 3 awards at that year’s Night of Horror Film Festival, along with 2 more wins at Monster Fest and the BUTFF (B-Movie, Underground & Trash Film Festival.) Many of those awards went to its director, Dave Jackson (Cannibal Suburbia 2008), who co-wrote the script alongside Andrew Gallacher (Horrible 2010). They not only produced this full-length feature, but also the original 2013 short film of the same name that inspired it. Now, on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Cat Sick Blues makes it way to DVD & Blu-Ray via Wild Eye Releasing.
Giving a bit of a backstory, the short film was about a killer in a cat mask interrupting a couple’s fracturing relationship. Its bigger sibling focuses more on the Cat-man himself. It reveals he is called Ted (Matthew C. Vaughan: Lost Dog 2011, Event Zero 2017). The poor guy lost his cat, and the grief has driven him over the edge. He now believes that he can bring his cat back to life by sacrificing 9 lives to it. So, he dons a big cat mask and claws and sets off to find his victims. While he is doing this, he finds a kindred spirit in Claire Ellis (Shian Donovan: Sawney: Flesh of Man 2012, Tomoko 2015). She also lost her cat, and Ted develops a bond with her. Is this enough to soothe the savage beast within him? Or will it cause more trouble?
Either way, he has no connection to the obscure DC super-villain of the same name. Nor does he resemble DC’s more famous female equivalent Catwoman. This Cat-man is more creepy and weird than a homme fatale. He will brutally kill people, then use their computers to watch YouTube cat videos. Though he is not very imposing, he is not shy about using any means necessary to kill his prey. He is Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees if the fancy dress shop ran out of hockey and William Shatner masks. That, and if they had a cat fetish on top of every other issue they have.
Not that he comes off as any more normal without the mask. If anything, he might be creepier without it. Vaughan does a good job at inhabiting a character who can barely repress his darker half. He grumbles like a cat, he commissions cat-based ‘equipment,’ and gets lost in his own grotesque thoughts. Yet, it does not stop him from trying to have a social life. Which is where Donovan’s Claire comes in. She is perhaps the most relatable character for the audience in the film, beyond Ted’s victims. Her ride through an emotional wringer makes her the most sympathetic character on screen. Donovan does well at keeping up with the emotional cavalcade, and in keeping the audience in suspense of what may happen to her.
Though, it may take a while. The film is approximately an hour and a half long, but it has a slow pace. It also loves its slow-motion sequences. Most of the time it helps build up suspense and atmosphere. There are some points where it feels like it is dragging a scene out, but at least they are well-shot and edited scenes. The film tells a lot through visuals alone, and they are lovely visuals for the most part.
There is also a lot of focus on Ted, his foibles and his kills. That is granted, considering he is the main character. Not to mention, his brutal kills are aided by some strong makeup and effects work. However, the film feels lopsided in his favor. Claire does not get much to do beyond the opening and closing acts. Even then, her closing act role is questionable. It is hard to describe without getting into spoilers. To put it short, it feels like the film wanted to have its cake and eat it too.
Overall, Cat Sick Blues is hard to pin down. Technically, it is tip-top. The effects are convincingly visceral, and the camerawork is smooth. It tells a lot visually, and its use of sound and the soundtrack helps build up tension.
The film tells an intriguing story, but it could have done with some more touch-ups. As such, it feels like an old Slasher film with some modern Psycho-Drama. There is plenty to please the blood-and-guts fans, so long as they stick around. Others will start off curious and be left that way. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Cat Sick Blues 3 out of 5 stars.