In the last few years, a lot of sleazy movies, B-flicks, gorefests, Canadian tax shelter productions and otherwise low-budget cinematic endeavors have been lovingly restored by companies like Vinegar Syndrome, Arrow, Shout Factory, Synapse, Kino Lorber, Lionsgate, Severin Productions and scores of others.
But if a movie is "bad," how much of a difference does it make if you go through all the effort to find the original filming materials, give them a 2K scan, clean them up and give them a professional color grading?
Well, that's the question, isn't it? And I think that there is, perhaps, no better film to illustrate the value of these restorations than Cathy's Curse.
WHAT THE @#$ IS A CATHY'S CURSE
Cathy's Curse is a French-Canadian horror movie from 1977 about Cathy, a young girl who gets possessed and subsequently wreaks havoc on her entire family. And if that sounds familiar, that's probably because there were a lot of movies about possessed kids after 1973's The Exorcist.
Cathy's Curse is a little different from most The Exorcist rip-offs in that, instead of a demon, Cathy is possessed by the spirit of her dead aunt who died in a car crash as a child. Her aunt wasn't even an evil kid; she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when an adorable, clearly store-bought bunny rabbit hopped across the street.
There's also a creepy doll situation? And also a medium who can commune with the dead? Sounds kind of like a James Wan joint decades before the fact, but it's really not.
SHOULD I HAVE HEARD OF IT BEFORE?
Heck no! To my knowledge, almost everyone who has ever heard of Cathy's Curse became familiar with it thanks to Brian W. Collins, author of Horror Movie a Day: The Book and writer for Birth. Movies. Death. Like it says on the tin, Collins spent a few years reviewing a horror movie every day, which gained him quite a bit of notoriety in a horror community full of hungry fans looking for something weird they'd never seen before. Although Collins discovered Cathy's Curse very early on in his horror movie reviewing career, it remained one of his favorites.
Basically, Cathy's Curse is not like, say, Troll 2. This is not a movie that people line around the block to see like it's The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Could that change? We'll get to that in a moment. But, first...
IS CATHY'S CURSE A GOOD MOVIE?
No. No, friend, it is not. Whether it's the acting (which is bad), the total lack of establishing shots, or the bizarre behavior that could never be mistaken for something a human would (or even could) do, I can't imagine anyone would ever mistake Cathy's Curse for a good movie.
But is it entertaining? Oh, absolutely. There are strings of curses that abound from the mouth of a seven-year-old girl that would make a fifty-year-old man blanche. There are scenes where a girl disappears and reappears at will only for her mother to scold her as though she just crayoned the walls. Characters appear for single scenes only to vanish, maids clean up three shards of a broken glass only to declare the whole room clean, and a mustachioed father exclaims to his little girl, "You're mother's a bitch!"
Cathy's Curse is a work of very bad but infinitely watchable art. However, there is one thing about this movie that I think really hampered it from cult status until now.
VIDEO QUALITY MATTERS
When Brian Collins was recommending Cathy's Curse, it was virtually unwatchable. The DVD from Mill Creek he used is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime if you want to get a look at it but it's cropped to 4:3 and it just looks like a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Background elements are barely visible, faces are often obstructed and the sound ain't much better.
Troll 2 is a terrible movie, sure, but even the VHS rental copy I first saw that movie on circa 1992 was a million times better-looking than the best version of Cathy's Curse out there.
Until now, that is.
Yes, Severin, one of the companies responsible for restoring brilliant schlock, has brought us a comparatively pristine copy of Cathy's Curse restored from some original film elements. Some of it is a little soft and faded, sure, but compare it with what we were used to and it's absolutely night and day. Add to that the original aspect ration and a restored sound mix and it's almost like watching a completely different movie.
In addition to the restoration, Severin also includes a Director's Cut of the film which simultaneously helps the story make more sense while also putting into even sharper relief just how little sense the movie as a whole makes.
In short: by allowing audiences to actually, you know, see Cathy's Curse without feeling like they're wearing literal beer goggles, they can also see that it's even weirder and more hilarious than originally thought.
CATHY'S CURSE LIFTED
Cathy's Curse is still a bad movie, but I don't think it's badness was what cursed it in real life so much as its inaccessibility due to those previous poor transfers. Sure, VHS lovers derive a certain pleasure in having to mess with the tracking to get a good picture, but no one wants to sit through an hour and a half of straining their eyes for a few quotable lines.
Now, you can invite your friends over and see exactly how strange Cathy's doll is and how weird the facial expressions the actors make truly get in some scenes. You can see just how store-bought that bunny is which caused the opening scene's car accident. You can, I dunno, enjoy the costume choices and the set design? The point is you can actually get the full experience of this very, very weird and bad movie. And that's pretty cool.
Whether or not Cathy's Curse is destined to become one of those movies people go the theaters to see for the cult experience remains to be seen, but at least it's got a shot at that now.
And I can honestly say with this restoration that, if you love laughing at cheesy B-movies, Cathy's Curse is 100% worth your time.