Cathy’s Curse – aka Cauchemars – is a 1977 French-Canadian supernatural horror film directed by Eddy Matalon from a screenplay co-written with Myra Clément and assistant director Alain Sens-Cazenave. The movie stars Alan Scarfe, Beverly Murray and Randi Allen.
November 1979: Cathy is possessed by the spirit of her dead aunt, who died in a car accident in 1947. Soon members of her family begin to mysteriously die off…
There’s a certain sort of North American horror film from the 1970s that is hard to define – sometimes erroneously called ‘grindhouse’, and certainly low budget, these movies are notable for being oddly removed from normality, usually by accident rather than design. Eddy Matalon’s Cathy’s Curse is such a film. Here is schlock cinema that feels odd from the very start, as if it was made by people who had never actually seen a movie before, instead having been given a vague description of what one was. To paraphrase British comedian Eric Morecambe’s famous quote, it has all the right parts, but not necessarily in the right order.
Eleven year-old Cathy (Randi Allen) and her parents return to the family home, thirty years after a young girl was burned alive in a car accident. Bad things begin to happen once Cathy discovers the dead child’s doll, and is possessed by her vengeful spirit – though they happen so slowly and haphazardly that the film starts to resemble a fever dream, much like the snake, spider and rat infested DT’s that one character suffers for some inexplicable reason.
While it’s true that without The Exorcist, Cathy’s Curse wouldn’t exist, it would be wrong to say – as many critics have – that this is a mere imitation. If you didn’t know that the film had appeared in the wake of that box office blockbuster, you would struggle to make any connection with the two beyond some half-hearted cussing from Cathy.
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There’s not much connection to normal cinema either – the pacing is slow, the structure confused, the acting weird (the fact that this is a French-Canadian production shot in English might explain the stilted and sometimes nonsensical dialogue) and the horror sequences seem randomly inserted.
None of this should put you off. A film such as Cathy’s Curse is beyond simplistic critical description – it simply exists in its own little world, and is all the better for that. There’s something compulsive about films like this – in a world of cookie-cutter cinema, they are a reminder that once upon a time, there was aberrant originality and eccentricity that wasn’t contrived.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
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“Cathy’s Curse is a terrible film. I mean a really terrible film. I could go into great detail about how awful it is but I don’t have ten additional paragraphs in me right now. Best I can say is that it provides a few laughs (all unintentional, of course), just not nearly enough to make this worth sitting through.” The Bloody Pit of Horror
“But I was mostly entertained and drawn in by its surreal atmosphere and its commitment to hurling out a bunch of crazy scenes for 80 minutes. It’s sort of brazen in its disregard for character development and logic, which makes it quite possibly one of the best Euro-horrors ever produced from Canada.” Brett G., Oh, the Horror!
“The script places a lot of emphasis on ‘possession’ special effects, which quite laughably fail to deliver. The direction between these ‘climatic’ scenes is amateurish. All of which wastes a potentially interesting idea: Cathy’s possession begins with a rejection of her female identity.” Verina Glaessner, Time Out
” … wholly unlikeable – annoying characters, dull direction, trite shocks. Yet I must give credit for the high percentage of activity and action. After the initial 20-minute set-up, something happens every five minutes.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“The uninspired direction and script devote a great deal of footage to showing cars driving up to the house and people getting in and out of them. The effects are basic, the acting nondescript and the script makes nothing of the interesting thematic possibilities of the alienation of a young girl from her female body.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“Special effects are undistinguished, Eddie Matalan’s direction is tedious, and Randi Allen as Cathy seems more insufferable than evil.” John Stanley, Creature Features
On 11 April 2017, Severin Films released Cathy’s Curse on Blu-ray and DVD, fully restored in 2K from “recently discovered film elements”.
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- Original director’s cut and alternate US release cut
- Tricks and Treats – Interview with director Eddy Matalon
- Cathy & Mum – Interview with actress Randi Allen and costume designer Joyce Allen
- Audio commentary on US cut by BirthMoviesDeath.com critic Brian Collins and filmmaker Simon Barrett
- Screening introduction by BirthMoviesDeath.com critic Brian Collins
- Theatrical trailer
George: “Listen to me Vivian. I have been working at the construction site for eighteen hours a day and I am exhausted. You know how important this project is to me. I just can’t stand anymore of your hysterics!”
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