The Black Cat (2007)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
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Overall Rating 67%
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Ranked #7,091
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Genres / Traits: Horror Cats

The Black Cat, set in 1840 Philadelphia, has the great writer Edgar Allan Poe, struggling with alcoholism, writers block, as well as being out of ideas, short on cash, and tormented by his wife Virginia's black cat that will either destroy his life or inspire him to write one of his most famous stories. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: July 23, 2007
The Masters of Horror series has had its fair share of ups and downs, but sadly enough for those of us expecting horror classics each and every week, the "downs" have sort of outweighed the "ups." Don't get me wrong - there have been some excellent offerings throughout the first two seasons, but there have also been a lot of stinkers along the way from some of the guys that viewers expected much, much more from. To say that I expected The Black Cat to be one of the better entries in the series would be a lie: sure, we've got Stuart Gordon reuniting with Jeffrey Combs for another onscreen horror offering and the basis of the story is a Poe story, but the plot as outlined in the synopsis didn't exactly fill me with hope. Oh, how wrong I was.

The story for this one is basically an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's short story entitled The Black Cat (bet you didn't see that one coming), but there is one minor change for this presentation: the tale is told through the eyes of Poe himself (Jeffrey Combs) as he deals with this pesky feline that threatens to drive him mad.

So, what's the actual story about? Well, if you haven't read the original story, I suggest that you track down a copy of it as it's definitely one of those classics that should be experienced in literary form before watching it on the big screen (or on your television). In this telling of the story, Poe finds himself in desperate times thanks to his wife Virginia (Elyse Levesque) having caught the white plague, and to make matters worse, the money in this household has dried up due to the publishers wanting more horror stories and less poetry. Desperately needing to come up with a fantastic story that will put his name back on the map (and more importantly, a hefty check in his hand), Poe attempts to sit down and come up with a horrific story that will thrill his audiences... and finds himself stuck with a bad case of writer's block. This will soon be the least of his worries, however, as the titular black cat decides to make its presence known. The things that this cat does eventually causes Poe to question his own sanity as Virginia succumbs to the sickness that is ravaging her body, and the only thing that will set his mind at ease is "just one more glass of wine"... but will getting shit-faced drunk help the situation or make it worse?

I realize that I didn't give a very thorough outline of the plot for this one, but I stand by my statement that the story should be read before you see this episode, and if you have read the story, then you pretty much know how this episode is going to end. Sure, there are a few changes made to the story for this presentation, but to reveal everything that has been changed would be a spoiler regardless of whether or not you've read the original work, so we're just going to leave the plot at that.

Now, with that out of the way: why did I enjoy this one so much? Well, to put it simply, I felt that this was one of the better adaptations of Poe's work thanks to Gordon's excellent eye for what makes a horror film work. There are moments to be found here that are truly unsettling thanks to the way that the story is told and how the visuals are presented to us watching at home. Although there is a little bit of gore to be found here (and some good stuff at that), that's not what I meant when I referenced the visuals: what I mean is the way that subtle details are shown and the way that what should have been minor scenes (the first major sign of Virgina's illness, for example) turned out to be some of the most memorable pieces of the film. Anyone with a couple of dollars and a gallon of fake blood can make an onscreen death look nice, but to make something like this stand out takes true talent.

I was also impressed with the general look of the film. Due to the subject material, Gordon decided to give the film an antiquated, sepia-toned look that considerably added to the atmosphere of the film. However, unlike other films that have attempted to use this technique, the end result was not a movie that obviously came across as digital manipulation made to look "artsy"; no, the end result was a film that looked beautiful to say the very least.

To sum things up, I'd just like to say that The Black Cat is a highlight not only of the second season of Masters of Horror, but of the series as a whole. This is the sort of thing that I expected to see back when the concept was first announced, and it was a treat to once again see somebody live up to the "Masters" part of that title. 9/10.
Cryptorchild #1: Cryptorchild - added August 10, 2007 at 7:11pm
I loved this entry. I'm a big fan of Jeffrey Combs so of course I knew I was going to like it. I also like Stuart Gordon and it was nice to see him do something different than a Lovecraft story. But yeah, Combs' acting was great, he always steals the show. So far my favorite entry in the 2nd season of MOH.
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