Possessed animals and pets have been a staple of the Horror genre as long as it has been around; they are even a kind of sub-genre unto themselves. Depending on the filmmaker, this idea can go any of multiple ways: in his half of the 1990 double-feature Two Evil Eyes, director Dario Argento took a cat and terrorized Harvey Keitel with it. Meanwhile, John Harrison targeted David Johansen with a feline in a classic segment from 1990’s Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.
In Hell’s Kitty, available everywhere on VOD and DVD as of Tuesday, March 13th through Wild Eye Releasing, Writer/Director/Actor Nicholas Tana does the same but turns up the comedy to eleven. This is a film that wears its Horror influences on its sleeve and revels in its own absurdity.
Tana plays Nick, a struggling Hollywood screenwriter whose jealous pet cat refuses to let him settle down. Angel attacks any woman in Nick’s sights, so the beleaguered writer seeks help controlling his beloved pet. Enter a cadre of Horror icons trying to come to poor Nick’s aid.
Hell’s Kitty, based on Nicholas Tana’s web series and comic of the same name, is a fun, kinetic film; it is cheesy but it has a heart. The jokes mostly hit, with a bunch of groaners thrown in probably on purpose. The visual style is clearly influenced by 1987’s Evil Dead II, and the story itself bears a resemblance to the above-mentioned films. Although, in all honesty, Hell’s Kitty is not trying to be anything more than a silly Comedy.
That being said, there are some issues. Some dialogue sounds like it was recorded in a tunnel, and the lighting is all over the place too. Sometimes the actors’ faces are shadowed completely and, other times, outside light washes out their faces with blinding white. Also, Hell’s Kitty has some humor in it that some may find uncomfortable.
However, this is a clear love letter to 1980s Horror filmmaking: the cheesiness of the production values is there, and so was the off-kilter humor. It is all very on-the-nose, so it is hard not to think it’s more about getting that ‘80s vibe down to a tee and it absolutely does have that vibe.
The main characters from the web series return (Tana himself, Adam Rucho and Lorrie Rivers, among others). Plus there are a ton of cameos from ’70s and ’80s Horror icons who played bit roles in the series: Doug Jones (Hellboy 2004, The Shape of Water 2017), Michael Berryman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975, The Hills Have Eyes 1977), Lee Meriwether (Batman 1966, All My Children series) and Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog 1980, Creepshow 1982), among plenty others pop by Nick’s apartment.
The special effects are goofy in a humorous way. The gore is realistic, so there’s enough “scariness” that it does not become an outright Comedy; but it is clearly more Comedy-Horror than Horror-Comedy. Despite the visceral quality to the gore effects, the situations are all still so over-the-top it is hard to feel scared or even uneasy at any point.
The characters are actually all memorable, and the brevity in which each situation unfolds allows for every character to leave their mark quickly. As Nick grows increasingly desperate, while still trying to live his life, the people he turns to grow more ridiculous. It also helps that Angel is a cute kitty, so her savage bloodlust (among other powers) is pretty fun.
This all adds up to a madcap and bizarre slice-of-life for a man at his wit’s end. The emphasis on lame (and potentially uncomfortable) humor, effects and pretty bloody violence may annoy some viewers; tone-wise it never really shifts too far from near slapstick. Though this is all in the eye of the beholder!
Hell’s Kitty is cheesy-on-purpose and good for some laughs. Its heart is there in its love for the ‘80s and, at around 90 minutes, it never outstays its welcome. For this and with a big, huge wink, CrypticRock gives Hell’s Kitty 2.5 out of 5 stars.