REVIEW: Hell’s Kitty
– By Sooz Webb
Cats are, well, most words to describe them are a tad too strong for this review, so pick your favourite, most colourful adjective and let’s go with that one. They’re also cutesy-pie little fuzzballs that light up our entire existence, who we’d never want to be without. I own a cat…no wait…I house share with a cat? As if she pays rent! I am human slave to a cat. She runs absolute circles around me and the other half, and we exist in a feline-based Stockholm syndrome-esque environment, where even the most outlandish and anti-social of her behaviors is described in coo-coo baby speak as ‘Nawww….SOOOO adorable’. Sometimes, when she gets that look in her eye, I wonder if she’s possessed by the devil. But then I realize how farcical that is and, if anything, Big Red would be butt monkey to she. And he’d be happy about it. Another chap who’s obviously wondered if his puss-puss is playing host to Beelzebub is writer-director Nicholas Tana. It’s a concept that he explores in his wonderfully wackadoodle love letter to the horror genre, Hell’s Kitty.
The story focuses on Nick, a writer struggling not only with a creative block, but a cat whose main priority in life seems to be, at the risk of sounding vulgar, preventing him from snuggling up to another pussy. Every time he lets a new lady into his life, she’ll be involved in a rather unfortunate altercation, which is accompanied by ominous, vaguely Satanic sounding music. Which seems to permeate from the cat. Does it have a boombox hidden about its person? Or is it at the behest of a hellish entity? The only way to decipher behavior that goes beyond knocking stuff over for no apparent reason and the ability to cough up an equivalent weight of your own hair, is to hold a seance. And by the hairy paw of Tinder, what’s revealed may make you swipe left on dating for good!
The premise of Hell’s Kitty is purrfectly simple. Man is under thumb (or paw) of cat, who makes life a living nightmare, until the unbridled pleasure of behind ear scratching is resumed once more. So far, so Tuesday. But what if sheer arsholery (yes it’s a word) stretched beyond a moggie being an arrogant dick? And what if such absurd tomfoolery not only paid tribute to, but starred some of our most cherished genre legends? Sounds like a deal’s been struck with the guv’ downstairs, no? And yet, it all plays out with schlocky aplomb.
Tana’s script lovingly sets up and pays homage to an abundance of classic horror greats, with heavy influence from the work of Stephen King, and invites a cavalcade of icons to come and play in his sandbox. Or is that litter tray… There are too many to mention, but moments I found particularly squee-worthy or had me fangirling beyond the realm of decency, involved Bill Oberst Jr and Doug Jones, yes he of fishy Oscar winning glory, and Catwoman herself Lee Meriwether, in a moment of pure meta-magic. Every face that appears on screen is a delight, and reminds us of a time when what spooked us could be cheesy and funny, as long as it tells a story. Hell’s Kitty takes this ethos and runs with it, like it was a ball of yarn dipped in A grade catnip. It makes for one hell of a hilarious ride.
But don’t fret, it’s not all fun and frolics; limbs and body parts get ripped to pieces too. Effects that are adeptly realized, despite the films micro-budget. There are some real gross out shockers and the work is truly outstanding. Of course, most films aren’t without flaws, and Hell’s Kitty has occasional hiccups where the sound wibbles beyond human perception, and there are instances/plot holes which could have been cut and not missed at all, but these are so incidental in all the lighthearted yet maliciously morbid frivolity, that really, it ain’t worth crying over spilt milk for.
An ebullient and tongue-in-cheek farce that doesn’t pussyfoot around the macabre, Hell’s Kitty will definitely resonate with those that share space with a four legged friend. And if you do start to question whether your moggie is in league with The Lord of the Flies, relax. Your mouser thinks she’s the cat’s meow. And if you don’t agree, there’ll be hell to pay.