Pssst, want to check out Cat People in our new look?
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While Universal Monsters had the money for elaborate make-up, Transylvanian sets, and cutting-edge effects, RKO put producer Val Lewton on a strict budgetary diet and told him to churn out competing movies based on provided titles alone. The first of these set the tone. Cat People is a psychological, atmospheric, supernatural thriller where the scares are provided by fleeting shadows, sound design, and the audience's own imagination. In short, it's more effective (and less likely to get outdated) horror at a fraction of the cost, with a definite Hitchcockian flavor. It's the story of a Serbian woman who feels out of place in America until she finds a man she loves. Only, not even then. Haunted by childhood folk stories of cat people, she fears she may be one of them on account of her strange effect on animals, and her deep ennui even in a loving marriage. Played as a romance/drama, the horror hits home in the third act, once we have a handle on every character's personal stakes. This is how you make a horror film on a shoestring budget - you make the budget not matter to the story as told.
Cinematographic masterpiece! Brilliant use of shadows, especially in the pool scene.
Absolutely loved it.
Such a shame the 'Lewton bus' ended up being the most horrifically over- and misused narrative mechanism in horror films.
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In 13 official lists
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This movie ranks #29 in Fantasy Cinema: Impossible Worlds on Screen
This movie ranks #53 in They Shoot Zombies, Don't They?
This movie ranks #63 in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
This movie ranks #109 in National Film Registry
This movie ranks #157 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #157 in TimeOut's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
This movie ranks #158 in The British Film Institute: 360 Classics
This movie ranks #213 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Films
This movie ranks #258 in Have You Seen? A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films
This movie ranks #294 in Roger Ebert: the great movies
This movie ranks #468 in TSPDT 1000 Noir Films
This movie ranks #540 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
This movie ranks #973 in The Criterion Collection