A Cat in the Brain
a cat in the brain | lucio fulci | giovanni simonelli | antonio tentori | brett halsey | ria de simone | slasher | giallo | italy | comedy | david l. thompson | sacha darwin | jeoffrey kennedy | robert egon | malisa longo | shilett angel | paola cozzo | adriana russo
Film: A Cat in the Brain (Un gatto nel cervello)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writer: Lucio Fulci, Giovanni Simonelli and Antonio Tentori
Starring: Lucio Fulci, Brett Halsey and Ria De Simone
This was another film that I watched as part of a series of podcast shows for the best horror films of the 1990’s. That is what made me watch this faster than I probably would have, but I’m also a fan of the writer, director and star of this film, Lucio Fulci. I would have seen this eventually. The only thing I knew coming in is that this is a wild one. The synopsis is a horror film director is stalked by a serial killer bent on killing people to model the killings after the director’s gory death scenes in his movies.
We start this film off seeing someone from above. This is actually Dr. Lucio Fulci (Fulci) as he is writing something. He’s mumbling to himself and it is about acts that are committed to someone and they’re all graphic. The image then changes to a mess of blood and flesh with a cat that is attacking it. This is really an allegory to what Fulci thinks is happening to his brain.
It then shifts to a woman lying on an operating table. She is missing a chunk out of her leg. We zoom in on it before going to a man as he is frying a steak. He sits down in front of a television set where a woman says that she wants to eat him. He replies that is exactly what he’s going to do it. We then shift to seeing him cutting the body up with a chainsaw. The images then appear on a TV and it is actually a film that Fulci is making.
The violent images he is filming are bothering him though. He wakes up the next morning to someone sawing wood outside with a chainsaw. He sees the man covered in red paint and it gets much worse. He starts to see violent images of dead bodies and nude women who are soon murdered every where he looks. He seeks out a psychiatrist, Professor Egon Schwarz (David L. Thompson).
We are also given a glimpse into the life of Professor Schwarz. His wife, Katya (Malisa Longo) is having an affair or at least entertaining the idea of one. This frustrates the professor as he feels she can’t be disrespecting him like she is, but no matter what he says or does, she just ignores him.
As the images for Fulci get worse, a murderer starts to kill people around him. He is questioning whether or not he is the killer. There’s a scene where he attacks a camera man and comes on to a woman. A producer had to stop him before it went too far. Fulci has no memory of what happened; we saw what he did which was an orgy of Nazis with woman committing acts of debauchery. Fulci has to get to the bottom of this before he loses his mind or is he actually the killer?
Now I wanted to go a little bit vague with my recap of the story, but I will admit, this film actually shows us who the killer is about 30 minutes into the film. It is kind of an odd move to be honest. The film plays more like a slasher film, but it still tries to build the mystery of a giallo as Fulci tries to solve the crimes. The problem I had here is that it takes too long to get to the first actual kill and then there are some long gaps in-between some of them. The film decided to focus more on the nightmare images Fulci is seeing, which plays more like a highlight tape of what he can do with effects. I would have liked to focus more on the mystery of the killer and Fulci trying to solve it.
Now I know I wanted less of Fulci’s descent into madness, but I did like the concept. There seems to be an allegory here about if watching horror films have an effect on the viewer. It is interesting that for a good portion of the film, it is showing us that it is messing with Fulci and that he is going to lose his mind because of it. On the other side though, the killer is the depraved one that sees the opportunity. The killer doesn’t seem to be necessarily a fan, just taking advantage of the situation and using them for inspiration. The way I read this film is that he is mocking this notion of the genre making people do unspeakable things.
I will admit that an issue I had with the film was with the pacing. I’ve already alluded to this, but I really think it focused on some of the wrong things. I think the build up of Fulci losing his sanity is good. That sets us up for what happens after the murder starts. I think this film would have been better served if they would focus more on the story from that point and less on the violent images he keeps seeing. I come in expecting the story to not be the greatest with films from Fulci though so I can’t hold it against him too much. I wasn’t a fan of what happens with the killer in the end, it is anticlimactic. I will say that the final sequence was solid.
The acting I have to say is pretty decent overall. Fulci is playing himself and I think that he did a good job. I don’t really know how much acting he really did, but I did believe him when he sees the nightmare images and the pain it is giving him. Thompson was pretty solid in his role. The facial expressions he makes really made the role for me to be honest. The rest of the cast that appear in the visions of Fulci did well, I could feel the terror for sure. I do want to shout out seeing Paola Cozzo as Nurse Lilly. I remember her from the Lamberto Bava film Demons.
I couldn’t talk about a Fulci film without talking about the effects. Something I found interesting is there is a scene he is filming where someone has trauma to their eye. He says that it didn’t look real to him, which I have to give him, a majority of the effects in his films look great. This film really did have a highlight reel of what can be done with all of them being practical. It was great. The film also is from 1990, but it really had a grindhouse feel to it and felt like it was much earlier than that. I’ll be honest, I dug it.
While watching the opening credit I saw that Fabio Frizzi and I knew the soundtrack was going to be really good. There was a moment where I’m pretty sure that a song at the end of The Beyond was reused here. It actually made sense for the scene and what was being filmed. I’m wondering if there were other selections reused as there appears to be archive footage used and at this time, there are quite a few Fulci films I haven’t seen. Regardless, the score fits the scenes and helps to ramp up the tension.
Now with that said, this is definitely a fun film. I really liked the concept of it in that there’s been a lot debate that watching violence and its effects on the viewer. This film does have an interesting concept, but for me I think that it focuses too much on showcasing Fulci as he descends into madness over the effects. Don’t get me wrong, the effects were great, but there is a more interesting story here. I do think that the acting overall is fine. The pacing is hurt a bit for me as my issue with the story kind of goes hand in hand. The soundtrack to the film doesn’t seem like the most original, but I still really enjoyed it. With that said though, I still really had a good time. I would only recommend this if you are into gory Italian films as this is an above average slasher/giallo type film.
My Rating: 7 out of 10