ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Perry writes for the film websites Gruesome Magazine, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel and Diabolique Magazine; for the film magazines Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope and Drive-In Asylum; and for the pop culture websites When It Was Cool and Uphill Both Ways. He is also one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast and can occasionally be heard as a cohost on Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast.
If you are in the mood for a quirky action comedy with offbeat elements and terrific fight choreography, writer/director Reiki Tsuno has you covered with his feature film directorial debut Mad Cats (Japan, 2023).
Nebbish Taka Kurosawa (Sho Mineo) goes searching for his missing brother Mune (So Yamanaka), who — unbeknownst to him but the audience is made aware of this early — has been taken captive by a group of “monster cats” bent on killing naughty pet shop owners in vicious manners. Along his journey he meets homeless man Takezo (Yuya Matsuura) and a mysterious young girl (Ayane), named, fittingly, Mysterious Young Girl in the film’s credits. He’ll need their help as his destination is the lair of the aforementioned felines, and members of that group do their best along the way to make sure that the reluctantly heroic trio doesn’t make it that far. Oh, and some esoteric catnip is involved.
Tsuno is no stranger to unconventional cinema, having appeared as a cast member in Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma features Return to Nuke ‘Em High and Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High AKA Vol. 2. Mad Cats may be a lower budget independent effort, but Tsuno has crafted a winner, as the film looks great, has fine production values, and a big heart.
The main cast members all acquit themselves well with fun performances, and the monster cat actors show great physical chops in their mostly silent roles. Ayane especially impresses with her martial arts choreography skills, and there is some solid work with weapons by her on-screen rivals.
From impressive fight scenes and action sequences to off-center but accessible humor — a pet store commercial will remind some viewers of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! — to sweet drama, Mad Cats delivers.
Mad Cats screens as part of Slamdance Film Festival, which takes place in-person from January 20–26 in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah and virtually from January 23–29, 2023.