Plot: Oliver (Kent Smith) is concerned about his young daughter Amy (Ann Carter), as she seems to have social issues and retreats to her imagination, rather than making friends with other children. While some parents might not be as worried, Oliver is still recovering from his first marriage and as his wife showed similar traits, only to go mad and kill, Oliver is quite concerned. He pushes her to make some friends, but they reject her and she happens upon Julia (Julia Dean), an old woman with some family drama of her own. She and her daughter Barbara (Elizabeth Russell) have some deep rooted issues and when Julia lavishes attention on Amy, this only drives the wedge even deeper between the two. Will Amy find some solace in this human company, as dysfunctional as it is, or will she revert back to her imaginary friend instead?
Entertainment Value: This movie has no cat people and no curse, but it is connected to the original Cat People, as several cast members return in their roles, so it is a sequel, just a nontraditional one, perhaps. The film is also more thoughtful, psychological drama than horror movie, but the atmosphere is eerie and masterful, so there are some horror vibes to be found here. The narrative centers on young Amy and her social issues, but the script handles it in a sensitive, but kinetic fashion that keeps things interesting, not to mention brisk. As the movie clocks in at 70 minutes, there’s little filler and the movie moves at a good clip, but at the same time, the suspense and mood don’t suffer, so the time is used in an efficient manner. The Curse of the Cat People also has some strong b movie threads, with some stilted performances and awkward moments, which should appeal to genre fans. I think the melodramatic elements add to the fun, but I can see how some might dislike them in what is otherwise a serious, even sensitive film. In the end, if you appreciate atmospheric thrillers or inconsistent, but fun b movies, The Curse of the Cat People is well recommended.
As I mentioned before, this movie has an effective atmosphere that keeps things eerie, but the performances veer toward melodrama or even wooden. Julia Dean and Elizabeth Russell have the most memorable efforts, as both are given eccentric characters and they embrace the wackiness of the roles. Russell is often over the top, which makes her turn stand out from the rest and while Dean dials up her performance, Russell takes her role as Barbara to another level. The movie is serious is tone overall, but also a little eerie and unsettling, so these oddball performances are indeed odd, but still feel at home within the film’s world. Kent Smith and Jane Randolph offer a more toned down style, but are still quite fun as not all that great parents. Simone Simon is good in her role, but the best performance comes from child actor Ann Carter, who is fantastic and avoids most of the child star pitfalls here. She is likable and performs well, not content to just be cute, she hammers out the film’s finest turn.