The Black Cat (1989)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Also Known As: Demons 6, Demons 6: Profundis, Il Gatto Nero, The Black Cat, Demons 6: Armageddon
Directed By: Luigi Cozzi
Starring: Florence Guerin, Urbano Barberini, Caroline Munro
Running Time: 84 minutes
Release Date: 1989
Country of Origin: Italy

Not to be confused with Lucio Fulci's "The Black Cat" from 1981, The Black Cat (1989) is a supernatural horror from Luigi Cozzi and is an unofficial sequel to Argento's, at the time incomplete, Three Mothers trilogy. The script was adapted from Daria Nicoladi's (Argento's ex wife and creator of The Three Mothers trilogy) script for an official Argento Three Mothers film that never saw the light of day. Although the film is often titled as Demons 6, it has no relation to the original 2 Demons films and like Demons 3-5 was named as such to cash in on the popularity of the original Demons films in international markets.

So what's the film about? The Black Cat is the story of horror film director, Marc (Urbano Barberini) and his actress wife, Anne (Florence Guerin) who are in the midst of filming a new horror movie entitled "Suspiria De Profundis" - a sequel to Suspiria and a film based on Thomas De Quincey's story "Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow". Filming is going well until events begin to take a bizarre turn when Levana, the witch the film concerns, objects to the production and begins to terrorise our leading lady. In typical horror film fashion, the carnage begins and the body count escalates as possessions, killings and shady behaviour heighten.

Although the cast is relatively small, Italian horror fans will be happy to see well known faces such as Urbano Barberini (Opera, Demons), Caroline Munro (Maniac, The Last Horror Show, Slaughter High) and Florence Guerin (Too Beautiful to Die). As par the course in Italian films of this ilk, there's some pretty awful dubbing in this film and as such, it makes it difficult to gauge how well acted the whole thing is. However, the actors seem pretty competent with the limited material and seem to revel in hamming up their scenes. Monro is great under the influence of evil witch, Levana and Guerin is perfect as the terrorised mother although it's a little bit harder to swallow her as an actress - no wonder Levana was so pissed off that she was cast in Suspiria de Profundis! I was genuinely surprised that the film contained so many well known genre actors making this worth checking out if you're a fan of Barberini, Monro or Guerin but sorry guys, there's no nudity in this one! 

Even by Italian Horror standards the film's narrative is pretty weak. Granted, Argento's supernatural films had gaping plot holes and unexplained occurrences but that was due to their dream like, surreal nature. Sadly, Cozzi's film lacks this dream like atmosphere and as such, the film feels like a disjointed, confused mess that either needs to be more stylised or realistic. Although the film starts with an interesting premise the action after the initial scene is pretty much contained within the home of Marc and Anne bar a few instances making the film look cheap and TV movie like. The film was in production in 1988 when the Italian film industry was in major decline so this may account for the overall budget look of the film and the limitations in sets and locations. 

A word of warning to those thinking of watching this one, The Black Cat seems like a fairly simple premise that would be easy to execute but it really is a mess plot wise. The first time I watched it I was left scratching my head thinking "huh?" and then the second time I had the exact same reaction so don't expect this one to make much sense especially the bizarre ending, the business in space (?!) and the fairy that appears to Anne in her time of need. I'd love to know what Cozzi was thinking when he finalised the script on this one.

The Black Cat should satisfy gore hounds and contains the splatter gore that one would expect from a mid to late 80s horror film. There's plenty of green slime, exploding guts and throat slashing peppered throughout the film. The special effects aren't brilliant but suffice and fit the overall tone of the film. The witch Levana (pictured in the poster at the top of the post) is well designed but her over the top glowing eyes started to get on my nerves by the end of the film. I personally would have preferred Levana to be in the same vein as Mater Lachrymarum from Inferno but Cozzi's version of a witch/hedgehog hybrid seems to work well enough in the ridiculousness that is The Black Cat.

For me, the most satisfying part of the film was the opening scene - the filming of a fictional scene for a Suspiria sequel. I loved the idea of a film within a film and thought it was a pretty inspired idea by Cozzi to pay homage to the three mothers films instead of trying to completely remake them or create a definitive third film. I loved the buildings and the yellow and red lighting used on the set and the overall feel of the scene definitely echoed the atmosphere in Suspiria and Inferno. I was disappointed that after that initial scene, we as the audience didn't get to see more of the fictional film that Anne and Marc were working on but I can understand why Cozzi took the film in a different direction even if that direction wasn't all that great. 

There's some great little nods throughout The Black Cat to Suspiria and Inferno that will keep Argento fans happy. The film within a film contains a lot of Three Mothers references from Anne's car journey to the beautiful yellow and red colour scheme that lights the deserted street and buildings she wanders through. The antagonist in "Suspiria 2" distinctly resembles a Giallo villain with his black trench, wide brimmed hat and stocking covered face.

 Off the movie set more subtle references to Suspiria and Inferno are made from the use of a large bound copy of "Suspiria de Profundis" a la Inferno to the film script's that bares the same typography as used in Suspiria's titles and promotional material. Although the film's feel after the first 5 minutes is distinctly different to Argento's supernatural horrors it's great to see his protege, Cozzi, referencing Suspiria and Inferno something he arguably did more of in this film than Argento did in The Mother Of Tears.

 Argento predominantly used red lighting for Suspiria and blue lighting for Inferno and Cozzi continues this theme by bathing his follow up in garish green tones. I personally prefer the red and yellow lighting Cozzi occasionally uses in the film especially at the start with the film within a film which I thought worked a lot better than the green but it's good to see him use the over the top lighting in the same vein as Argento slightly improving the flat TV movie look of the film.

The Black Cat is filled with an eighties hair metal soundtrack that fits well with the ridiculous, over the top nature of the film, it works especially well with all of the splatter gore - you can tell Lamberto's Bava films had a direct influence on the music choice in this one. If the fashions, big hair, low grade look and cars didn't date the movie enough, the music sure as hell makes this feel like a late 80s horror flick. 

Not surprisingly, the film has never had an official DVD release and the majority of the bootlegs available are sourced from a Japanese VHS and as such have Japanese subtitles. I watched this on YouTube but I hear that it's also available on US Netflix and Amazon Instant. A quick search on Google will provide you with various bootlegs - there's at least one floating around without Japanese subtitles. 

The Black Cat is shlock but it's fun shlock and it's a nice, albeit flawed, alternative to the real concluding film of The Three Mothers trilogy. Although many aspects of the film are laughable, it has an interesting premise and I would have loved to see the idea of a film within a film being executed in a better, more outlandish way by a more accomplished director such as Argento himself. If you're a die hard fan of the Three Mothers trilogy, the various unofficial Demons "sequels" and Italian Horror I would check this out but for the more casual horror fan or Giallo aficionado this one is best avoided. 


1 comment:

  1. Nice review! Really great. I have completely fallen in love with this movie (which means I've probably lost my damn mind). Have you heard our podcast episode on this flick? It was a fun one to record.


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