Not Quite Horror: “A Talking Cat?!?” (2013)

Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There’s more than one way to watch a movie.

A Talking Cat?!?

The Monster: David DeCoteau. The director of this film had accomplices when he engaged in making this upsetting film, but he is credited for the direction, the cinematography, and half of the producing duties. DeCoteau came from the Corman school of making films quickly and cheaply, as one viewing of A Talking Cat !?! confirms.

The Horror: Every element of A Talking Cat!?! is somehow unreal and inhuman. The title itself would seem more comfortable on an elementary English assignment than on a film featuring the voice of Eric Roberts. The mansion of male lead Phil (Johnny Whitaker) is decorated by furniture made out of half a car and what appears to be a tree trunk in high heels. A neighbor’s entire future depends on getting her daughter to make cheese puffs correctly. The only thing Phil’s son is more scared of than talking to girls is taking a dip in the pool. All of these elements seem more bizarre than the talking cat itself, even if its mouth moves with worse animation that a flipbook drawn on a stack of papers.

The Shared Fate: DeCoteau’s low-budget attempt at creating family comedy somehow ends up being a project worthy of Andy Warhol. Think about A Talking Cat!?! for too long and cracks appear in every feel-good family flick you find. Aren’t all of the sets in these films trying too hard to set the perfect mood, and aren’t all of the sons afflicted with a powerful fear they must overcome? Isn’t every character trying to perfect their own cheese puffs to save their own lives, even if they call their “cheese puffs” something different?

A Talking Cat!?! A brilliant and terrifying mockery of the absurd nature of family films.

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen