Cathy’s Curse is a Canadian horror film that certainly has a historic following, if not for all the right reasons; this exploitation flick from 1977 is most commonly known as a possessed child film that rarely manages to do anything right, with shoddy editing and a poor script results in a perplexing storyline that barely makes any sense. With that said, Cathy’s Curse certainly has its fans because of this cinematic flubs, an unintentionally funny film that manages a few eerie moments but more often elicits hearty chortles due to odd dialogue or abrupt scene transitions. Notably, the film has both a traditional theatrical cut and a director’s cut that attempts to add context to some of the movie’s more awkward moments; for the purposes of this review, we’ll take a look at the 91 minute director’s cut featured as part of Severin Films’ Blu-Ray release.
Cathy’s Curse follows Cathy (Randi Allen) and her family after they move into her dead aunt’s house. Cathy quickly gets into the attic and finds a creepy-looking doll with stitches in its eyes, and then she begins to turn evil after her dead aunt’s spirit possesses her. In true possessed-child fashion, Cathy’s mother Vivian (Beverly Murray) is plagued with the generic “mental illness,” and unfortunately because of this all of her experiences with evil possessed Cathy are shrugged aside by busy construction-worker father George (Alan Scarfe) when he blames it on Vivian just being a fragile woman.
But Cathy’s Curse is more complicated than its plot synopsis suggests; the complexity comes from the possession itself, which finds Cathy getting mouthier, more sinister, and most importantly violent the longer the doll remains in her possession. For the first half of the film, director Eddy Matalon lingers on the possession and even introduces a medium who has a frightening vision of the car accident that occurs at the beginning of the film and sets the curse in motion, and these moments are probably the most interesting aspects of the movie’s plot. However, it’s clear that neither Matalon nor co-writers Myra Clement and Alain Sens-Cazenave have any idea how exactly they want to portray the curse or Cathy’s new supernatural powers, because as Cathy’s Curse continues, its events just keep getting weirder and more nonsensical.
That stems from an underdeveloped sense of Cathy’s powers – not only can she teleport herself from place to place, she can also move things with her mind, cause snakes and other insects to appear out of nowhere, and force people to do her bidding. There’s often no reason for these occurrences – in one scene, Cathy forces her caretaker Paul (Roy Witham) to overimbibe on whiskey, then sit frozen as snakes, spiders, and rats crawl all over him, ultimately resulting in no harm. In fact, most of the time Cathy’s Curse appears to be going nowhere, introducing multiple characters (like aforementioned medium) for the sole purpose of killing them off.
It doesn’t help that the film’s script is terrible, a mish-mash of ideas that are never developed beyond face value. The entire motivation behind Cathy’s curse is poorly explained, and often Matalon glazes over some of the most important parts of the story and instead opting to depict odd and unnecessary sequences that add to the bizarre feeling about the film. There’s one scene in particular that stands out as a peculiarly fascinating example of Cathy’s Curse‘s shortcomings: Cathy inexplicably chucks a bowl of cereal against the wall; her maid tells her it’s quite all right, as though she accidentally dropped it; then she picks up a couple of pieces of the bowl off the floor and tells Cathy it’s all cleaned up, even when the camera clearly shows that the remnants of said bowl are creating a safety hazard on the floor. These types of gaffs pair up with the film’s horrid editing to create a tour de force of bad filmmaking.
And yet Cathy’s Curse does still manage to evoke a creepy feeling at times, especially in any scene involving the evil doll. For all of Matalon’s failures bringing the film to life, he does have a good sense of tension and it’s unfortunate that the film never manages to capitalize on this. Its ineptness in other areas aside, there’s definitely a good story somewhere in the heart of this tale, but like Cathy’s aunt’s spirit, it’s forever doomed to a life hidden away. Even the director’s cut, clocking in about eight minutes longer than the regular theatrical cut and adding length to some of the oddly chopped scenes from the original, can’t coax a better film out, and in fact is probably the least interesting of the two because of its unnecessarily extended scenes.