EDITOR’S NOTE: I love this movie so much that I have a full-sized painting of Cathy’s face that lights up — thanks Mark Dockum — and it’s been on the site three times: once all the way back on October 24, 2017, another time when John S. Barry wrote about it on November 15, 2018 and a reprint of when I wrote about it for Drive-In Asylum #12, which you can buy right here, and which follows:
There has never before or since been a movie where pure evil finds its origin in a rabbit crossing the road that’s narrowly missed by a misogynistic father, who then smashes his car into a ditch where it goes up like a tinderbox. It’s movies like this that made me run on foot from my first fender bender, diving into a snowbank, waiting for my car to blow up real good. Spoiler warning: It sure didn’t.
Cathy’s Curse finds its true origins in many places. First, the Canadian Film Development Corporation was formed to encourage more movie-making north of the border. According to Canuxploitation.com, “thanks to $10 million dollars of allocated funds in 1971 and the added incentive of tax shelter laws that increased the Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) for money used in the production of a Canadian feature film from 30% to 100%, Canada experienced an unprecedented explosion of moviemaking.” That money gave birth to filmmakers like Bob Clark and David Cronenberg, as well as the maniacs behind this film.
Secondly, Canadian horror is strange to American eyes. Again, Canuxploitation.com claims that’s because these films “are distinctive in the way they present concepts of individuality, community, and even morality. Our films tend to be more story and character-focused than their American counterparts, and when at all possible, the “wild” Canadian landscape is used to full effect.” In particular, films from Quebec stand out as even stranger than the rest of the country, with Possession of Virginia and The Pyx coming immediately to mind.
Finally, the third father (I should set them up with Argento’s Three Mothers) to Cathy’s Curse is a preponderance of occult-based films in the mid-1970s. Thanks to the one-two Satanic punch of The Omen and The Exorcist, filmmakers saw child possession as a rich source of appropriation.
So why do I love this movie so much? Because I believe that it was made by aliens who have no understanding of how human beings truly behave or act. It’s like John Keel’s stories of how the Men in Black were often confused by everyday objects like pens and had no idea how to eat food properly. Characters make asides that seem to be important plot points that ultimately go nowhere while glossing over things that end up being essential.
In my exhaustive research of Canadian possession movies, which was done with several cans of Molson as a control group, I have learned that when kids get taken over in a Canadian film, instead of the pure bile and meanness of say, Regan MacNeil, they just end up becoming impolite and swearing a lot more. Cathy Gimble, our heroine in this film, immediately picks this up. From forcing a group of children to repeat that all women are bitches to stabbing kids with needles, she goes from polite North of the Border pre-teen to Rhoda Penmark in no time flat.
Why else do I love Cathy and her film so very much? Because there are so many lessons to be learned. For example, if your daughter finds a frightening-looking doll in the attic — much less an attic that has a giant cast iron frog that no one ever comments on in the film — don’t let her keep it. And if you want to make sure your psychokinetic problem child is being properly taken care of, don’t entrust her daycare to a handyman that’s had lifelong issues with the sauce.
I adore Cathy’s Curse for its inconsistencies. Cathy’s powers are never really explained. They can do everything from blow-up knick-knacks to making snakes and rats appear out of nowhere to pulling maids out of windows like a Helen Reddy loving Damien Thorn, Cathy has the power she needs when she needs that power. How does one use the power to make food rot and get covered with bugs properly? You can’t very well join Alpha Flight (Canada’s Avengers) with that one.
I celebrate this movie for its actors, blessed with limited abilities, hilarious pronunciations and magical leather coats complete with wooly fur. A scream or an overreaction happens in nearly every scene.
You know how most horror movies start with an opening sequence showing how nice and happy everyone’s life is to juxtapose how horrible everything gets when the supernatural invades the real world? This movie will have none of that. Every single frame is packed with goofball weirdness. People wear dresses in the coldest of snow. Every wall is covered with pictures of animals. Next door neighbors just happen to be mediums connected to the spirit world. Strange music cues and cuts in the middle of dialogue happen for no reason whatsoever.
Unlike draconian films that have a point of view or an actual plot, this is a movie with no real point of view. Instead, it’s less a narrative and more scenes of Cathy destroying lives. You won’t learn a pesky moral or meaningless lesson. Instead, you will watch a young girl repeatedly tell off old women, including the immortal line where she refers to a medium as an “extra large piece of shit.”
In short, Cathy’s Curse is the kind of film that I put on and people say to me. “Why would you show me that?” and I never invite them to my house ever again. It’s a good litmus test to weed out boring people who have no idea how to enjoy the magic of film. You didn’t need them anyways! You have Cathy!