Cat People ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

An outrageously silly story somehow molded into such compelling, unnerving cinema your head could spin from the improbability of it all. It's as though someone (Val Lewton?) handed Tourneur the wackiest concept he could think of (newlyweds suffer emotional distance and a total freeze in physical contact for the usual reason, that the bride thinks she's a cat) and dared him to try to turn it into a serious picture. The unexplained tension and foreboding discomfort mount breathlessly all through the story, prodded along by good performances and stunning cinematography; the rationale behind it all hits you afterward and you're both alarmed and thrilled at the wool pulled over your eyes -- you just watched a movie about a lady maybe turning into a cat and killing people FFS, or maybe not, the film is wisely evasive on all this -- and for the opportunity it's given the filmmakers to explore a doomed young marriage in unusually blunt terms. It's a bummer that horror convention dictates such a weak finale and the presence of the Annoying Psychiatrist archetype (though at least this one fucks, or wants to), but this is really impressively weird, modern stuff for a studio picture, even if that studio is RKO, where unchecked inventiveness so often took up residence.