Cat from Hell, The (1990)


“The rest of your nine lives are going to be in one lump sum!”

Main Cast: David Johansen, William Hickey

Director: John Harrison

Originally intended as a segment of CREEPSHOW 2, Stephen King’s story THE CAT FROM HELL was dropped from that line-up, but eventually resurfaced three years later as part of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: The Movie, which is considered by most the “unofficial” third CREEPSHOW movie.  While my initial reaction to the movie was okay–I’ve seen it a few times, so I obviously didn’t hate it–my initial reaction to the King story was less than good.  In fact, when I first saw THE CAT FROM HELL, I thought it was just dumb.

Of course I didn’t say it out loud, it was a Stephen King story, dammit, and I pretty much worshiped King.  So it’s GOT to be a good story, right?  I’m just not well-versed enough in classic horror to really appreciate all the nuances of the story.

No, I was right the first time, it’s dumb.

The story itself centers around a hitman, Halston, played by David Johansen, who is hired by the incredibly wealthy Drogan, played by William Hickey.  Drogan wants Halston to kill his cat.  As the story unfolds, Drogan explains how this cat has been responsible for the deaths of several family members, but always seems to elude every attempt to put it down.  Which is why Drogan has taken the step to hire a professional.  No problem, Halston says.  Unfortunately, it actually does turn out to be a problem, culminating in one of the dumbest, most ill-conceived and badly-executed special effects I’ve ever seen.

The problems with THE CAT FROM HELL stem from several sources, the first of which is the story.  I don’t know what King was thinking when he decided this was an idea that deserved to be seen to completion, but it’s basically a throwaway idea that has built into it the exact opposite of suspension of disbelief.  It’s more cutesy than anything, and in an anthology of horror stories, cutesy gets you beat up.

Another problem stems from the first and is a downfall of many film adaptations of similar stories: the protagonist is a cat. In the days before CGI they basically had to strap a fake cat onto an actor’s head and the actor would then shake their head around violently, as if they were being attacked by a dozen tiny claws and a mouthful of sharp teeth.  The problem is it has never in the history of film looked convincing.  And THE CAT FROM HELL is NO exception.

In fact, given how basically cheesy most Tales From the Darkside stories were, the effect here isn’t bad, it isn’t laughable, it’s just shameful.  Especially the final effect, which I won’t reveal here.

Having read the original story upon which this adaptation was based, I can’t help but wonder why the details of the location were changed.  Given what happens to the hitman in the story before the cat does what the cat does, I think that situation would have provided a load more tension, which would have gone a long way in selling the effect, a lot further than the way it played out in the film version, anyway.

Not that it would have helped; at the end of the day THE CAT FROM HELL is still a pretty dumb story.

Hickey and Johansen are decent in their roles, at least as far as anyone has ever been in a Tales From the Darkside story, which isn’t great, but passable.  We have to remember the rules for television acting aren’t the same for movie acting, at least they weren’t in the 80s and 90s, and while this is the theatrical version of this title, it’s still just a TV show getting the big screen treatment.

To me, THE CAT FROM HELL is just more proof that people are so desperate for a King story to adapt to film that they’ll take any old thing he has laying around.  But when the source material is as lame as this, it’s a sure thing the adaptation is going to be even worse.  And in this case, it is.

King on Film

Carrie (1976)

‘Salem’s Lot (1979)

The Shining (1980)

Creepshow (1982)

The Boogeyman (1982)

Cujo (1983)

Disciples of the Crow (1983)

The Woman in the Room (1983)

The Dead Zone (1983)

Christine (1983)

Children of the Corn (1984)

Firestarter (1984)

Word Processor of the Gods (1984)

Cat’s Eye (1985)

Silver Bullet (1985)

Srazhenie (1986)

Gramma (1986)

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Stand By Me(1986)

The Lawnmower Man (1987)

Creepshow 2 (1987)

A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)

The Running Man (1987)

Sorry, Right Number (1987)

Pet Sematary (1989)

The Dark Half (1993)

The Tommyknockers (1993)

Needful Things (1993)

The Stand (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

The Mangler (1995)

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

The Langoliers (1995)

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1996)

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)

Thinner (1996)

The Shining (1997)

Ghosts (1997)

Chattery Teeth (1997)

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson (1997)

Trucks (1997)

The Night Flier (1997)

Chinga (1997)

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)

Gerald’s Game (2017)

1922 (2017)

The Stand (2021)

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