Cat People [1982]

Paul Schrader, the director of American Gigolo, brought a similar kind of sexual chic to this explicit horror movie. A remake of the beautiful, haunting 1942 Cat People, this version takes off from the same idea: that a woman (Nastassja Kinski), a member of a race of feline humans, will revert to her animalistic self when she has sex. Arriving to meet her brother (Malcolm McDowell) in New Orleans, she finds herself disturbed by his sexual presence. A zoo curator (John Heard) becomes fascinated by her, but he will discover that her kittenish ways are just the tip of the claw. Schrader dresses the story up in a stylish, glossy production, keyed on Kinski's green-eyed, thick-lipped beauty; it's hard to think of another actress in 1982 who could so immediately suggest a cat walking on two legs. Luckily Kinski had a European attitude toward her body, because this film has plenty of poster-art nudity. There's also lots of gore and some wacky flashbacks to the ancient tribe of cat people, who hold rituals in an orange desert while Giorgio Moroder's music plays. Cat People doesn't really make all this come together, but it's always interesting to look at, and the dreadful mood lingers. --Robert Horton

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