Thursday, June 17, 2010

Uninvited (1988)

Some things can only happen in Florida. A poisonous killer kitty escapes from the lab that created it, killing a handful of people with its powerful cat fu on the way out.

Through a peculiar set of unbelievable circumstances Killer Cat will land on the yacht of the especially evil Wall Street shark Walter Graham (Alex Cord). Right now, Graham is trying to keep up his appearance of being a suave slime bag, but is living in desperate fear of the SEC. He's desperate enough to let his henchalcoholic Albert (Clu Gulager) drown a potential whistleblower in the yacht's Jacuzzi, while Walter and his partner Mike (George "I was in Towering Inferno, so what's this dignity you speak of!?" Kennedy) watch gleefully.

They could have spared themselves the murder rap and the audience two scenes of little import, because the next day news come in that tell Wally and Mickey they'd better grab their traditional silver suitcases full of money and make off to that equally traditional safe haven of scumbags with money, the Cayman Islands. How impractical that Walter has scared off his boat's crew and only the captain, Rachel (Toni Hudson) is left! The film explains her staying with a long and tragic story about the yacht once belonging to her father and her wanting to buy it back to start a charter business. Captain Rachel is also too morally upright to sleep with Walter, which is a definite plus.

The crewless bastards are in luck. Two bimbettes (Clare Carey and Shari Shattuck) Walter has invited to a party that will never happen arrive with three male bimbos who look quite ideal to become the new crew in tow. The blonder bimbette has also brought an adorable little cat she found in a garbage can in port…

Of course, kitty will start killing again soon, the boat's motor will strike, the cat will poison the food supply and everyone will go batty, except for Captain Rachel and Martin (Eric Larson), who turns out not to be a bimbo at all, but a student of biology. Instant smittenness ensues. Of course.

Whoever might survive the adventure on the high seas?

Thanks to his much earlier work on films like Wacko and Satan's Cheerleaders, I possess a certain amount of respect for Uninvited's director and writer Greydon Clark. The man has talent and a skewed sense of humour I appreciate. Unfortunately, this film about an adorable killer kitten seems to be meant to be taken seriously, how improbable that may sound.

Clark might be surprised (or not) to hear that a single, normal looking cat is not all that believable as a threat for a boat full of people, even people as dumb as the intolerably stupid characters this film is filled with. Strangely enough, the script doesn't even use the opportunity to make one of the characters an ailurophobe. Walter certainly doesn't like cats, but that is only another instance of the bastard being a man of dubious character (who will, after the rules of bad horror movies, have to pay for his bastardness in the end, don't worry).

What seems to have been on Clark's mind isn't making something as unthreatening as a cat look dangerous and sinister on film anyway. In fact, his thoughts seem to have moved in quite a different direction: how to make his unimpressive killer beast even less impressive. And man, he realized the dream with the help of true special effects magic. Turns out that the one thing that looks less dangerous than a cat is a large (hand?-) puppet standing in for a cat, and what looks even less dangerous than that is when that first cat puppet vomits up another, slightly blackish and mangy looking cat puppet, which then does most of the killing (and changes rapidly in shape and size throughout the film). It's like a matryoshka doll of high monster hilarity.

Obviously, Uninvited is at its best whenever the kitten of doom is on screen, either in its adorable animal form or in one of the excellent kitten muppet attack sequences.

Alas, a bad movie does not live from monster attacks alone (although they all should). The rest of the film doesn't always reach the heights of these core moments or the sheer attractiveness of its feline star, yet you can't say it doesn't do its best with the help of some excitingly bad work in front and behind the camera.

First and foremost (and therefore dead way too soon) there are Gulager hamming it up (or just being really drunk, I'm not sure about that) like a cowboy John Carradine and George Kennedy kicking butt in an ineptly choreographed action sequence while wearing the same pained facial expression he always wears.

At first it seems as if the rest of the cast is just no fun at all. But they're just keeping their full non-powers in check for the first parts of the film. In the last half hour or so, everybody goes into screeching hysteria mode (excellent whining there, Miss Shattuck!), which always has its charms and additionally keeps one's ear drums well trained.

For the connoisseur of the ugly, there's some 80s bikini fashion so eye-gouging even I noticed it and a short aerobic sequence. The latter scene is of course filmed with a leering eye. The film as a whole does - to my great disappointment - not venture deep into the realm of the truly sleazy. There may be one-and-a-half sex scene(s), but Greydon does all in his (in this case considerable) power to let them look as unexciting as possible. At least the half one ends in a stealth hand-nibble scene right out of "Metal Gear Feline" or "Kitten - The Dark Project".

Further highpoints are a great sinking ship model - as known from my bathtub - and an inane "man and woman versus cat puppet on a life boat" fight that just repeats itself for a second time, and which words fail me to describe correctly.

There is much to love about Uninvited.

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