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It may be twisted and full of shocking content, but “Cat Sick Blues” has a lot of heart and will speak volumes to devoted pet parents.

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This review contains spoilers.

Cat Sick Blues (2015) is an Indie Extreme Horror film written and directed by Dave Jackson (Cannibal Suburbia, Gacha Gacha).

From the country that brought Wolf Creek, Snow Town, and The Loved Ones to international audiences, Australia drags Cat Sick Blues out of the sun and into the dimly-lit rooms of worldwide horror fans.

I first watched this film during Lockdown at a very turbulent time in my life when I was dealing with considerable trauma following life-altering surgery and yet another abusive relationship. My tastes at the time gravitated towards films that dealt heavily with Body Horror coupled with extreme, taboo content. So,  imagine my delight when I came across an Extreme Body Horror film I had not seen yet.

Cat Sick Blues focuses on the lives of Claire, played by Shian Denovan (Sawney: Flesh Of Man, Bite), the owner of an internet-famous kitty named Imelda who has a legion of online fans following her various social media accounts.

Claire’s fate is inextricably tied to the path of Ted, a deeply troubled man who bonds with Claire over a shared loss.

Unfortunately for Claire, she loses Imelda during a particularly brutal day when a mentally unstable fan/ stalker forces his way into her apartment, killing Imelda before brutally assaulting Claire, leaving her traumatized and isolated.

When Claire attends a grief support group for people who have lost their beloved animal companions, she finds a kindred spirit in Ted (played by Matthew C. Vaughan; Man Dog Man), who is grieving the loss of his beloved cat.

People deal with their grief in vastly different ways, and Ted processes his own heartache through donning a bulbous, rubber cat head, modified gloves complete with long, razor-edge claws, and a massive cat-penis dildo as he stalks the streets of Melbourne. Obviously.

Ted plans to resurrect his beloved feline buddy: he must take nine (human) lives and nine samples of blood, which he will use to reanimate his dearly departed cat.

Although his psychology may sound unhinged, Ted remains an uncomfortably relatable character if you’re also a cat person or an animal lover like me.

You may be forgiven for presuming that Cat Sick Blues is a dark comedy, given its preposterous plot and comic book-esque bad guy.

However, while there are moments of levity in the form of midnight-black humor (seriously, try not to laugh during the scene involving Ted riding around on a sex worker’s back as he mews and yips), this is still Extreme Cinema.

Everything about Ted’s nature is extreme.

From his medical condition, which assaults his body with violent seizures whenever he becomes excited, to his abhorrent lust for violence while parading around dressed as a giant feline, Ted is the Horror genre’s most bizarre villain in years.

Dave Jackson has pulled off a tricky feat in presenting largely irredeemable characters in an empathetic light.

You feel sympathy for Ted despite his horrific nighttime proclivities, and you empathize with Claire even when you realize how she put her own cat’s health at risk in the name of garnering more social media likes and a wider internet reach.

When I witnessed Claire forcing poor Imelda into stifling outfits while shoving a camera in her face despite the poor animal’s fur falling out from stress, I realized that this movie chose to simply present morally ambiguous grey areas rather than comment upon them.

As viewers, we are left to discern between ‘good and bad,’ and the storyline is all the richer for it.

This is a world steeped in hopelessness, populated by self-gratifying, obsessive, unlikeable characters whom we STILL feel sympathy for.

The underlying message of how we have become slaves to our avatars runs deep when you consider that every character has an obsessive fixation with online animal celebrities and their respective Instagram accounts.

From a technical standpoint, this is a visually arresting, often gorgeous-looking film.

Practical effects are present instead of CGI, resulting in a visceral experience. The emphasis on bodily fluids and the Snuff film’s color grading during scenes of human depravity made me feel dirty after watching it.

During a particularly heinous murder-orgy scene, time is slowed down.

The usually frenetic movements of onscreen murder are depicted in slow motion. Synthcore music (OST by Matthew Revert, which I highly recommend listening to via YouTube and Spotify) accompanies the chaos.

The disco lighting that bathes a party scene lends an ethereal, dreamlike quality as our killer stalks unsuspecting party-goers.

These aesthetics felt strange and surreal against the backdrop of sickening violence that unfolds in such mundane settings.

Cinematographer Daniel Cowan uses a similar style often seen in Asian crime films like Ichi The Killer and Oldboy — frantic camera movements coupled with gorgeous party lighting are complimented with catchy Synth music.

The gore and practical effects are skin-crawlingly realistic — props to Deiter Barry, who supplied the creature and prop designs. There are beheadings, fountains of claret, and kinky kitty cam-girls meeting grisly ends to satiate even the most seasoned Horror fans.

This film aims to shock you, leaving you feeling like the cat got your tongue when you try to describe it to your friends (don’t do this: they WILL be mad with you for making them visualize it!)

The negative points are few and far between however, the disjointed tone and mishandling of Claire’s trauma felt a little icky to me in retrospect.

Although it stands to reason that there is a greater emphasis placed upon Ted’s trauma with him being our Antagonist/ Protagonist, Claire’s own SA simply felt like a plot vehicle to catapult her into Ted’s clawed grasp.

To use sexual assault as motivation to propel the plot forward is by no means a new trope in Horror. However, framing a romance between a vulnerable, traumatized woman and a predator felt asinine, given the trajectory of where Claire’s repetitive abuses eventually lead her.

This is not to say that Claire’s trauma is ignored.

Cat Sick Blues

We are privy to her spiraling mental state following her attack. However, she is treated with such little empathy and space to process her trauma compared to Ted that it left me feeling complicit in her abuse.

However, I believe this is Jackson’s intention.

The focus is Ted; therefore, we are granted more time to peer into his psyche, and the mishandling of Claire’s suffering adds to the hopelessness that permeates the film’s overall vibe.

The slow pacing of the storyline pays off during the climatic scenes, where twist after twist of gut-wrenching revelations is revealed.

The film’s final scenes are executed with cat-like precision and culminate in a heart-breaking ending that made me want to claw out my own eyes.

The post-credits scenes also instill an emotional resonance with the viewer. We see home video-style footage of a young Ted posing with his cherished kitten during family holidays. Again, this adds a deeper empathetic layer to Ted, allowing us to see his more innocent and human side.

CAT SICK BLUES gives a voice to many of us who consider our non-human friends as family members, causing us to lick our wounds and deeply mourn our losses.

When I was still processing the loss of my own cat, this story felt like a warm embrace from someone who understood my pain when others in my life did not understand my grief.

Cat Sick Blues has a beating heart at its core that really resonates once the visceral shock wears off.

Like all extreme horror films, however, this is not for everyone.

If you’re a cat fancier or simply have a taste for Extreme Horror, Cat Sick Blues may purr-suade you into becoming a fan of this unique, genre-mashing movie.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4

 

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