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Article first published as Indie Film and Dead Cats on Blogcritics.
Ailuromortuusphilia [ahy-loo r-uh-mor-toos-fil-ee-uh] noun a liking for dead cats, as by indie film directors.
While viewing a preview of Kill List (unrated, directed by Ben Wheatley), I realized my place in psycho-babble science had been secured: I had discovered ailuromortuusphilia. Or, in short, why do indie film makers love dead cats?
In Kill List, which I’m sure will top my list of 10 worst films of 2012, we are treated to a cat that has been bound and hung (as in “To be hanged from the neck until dead”) on the front porch of a family made up of a troubled, but sympathetic lad (Harry Simpson), his beautiful, well intentioned Mom (MyAnna Buring), and a Hit-Man Dad (Neil Maskell).
(This paragraph contains a spoiler.) The first third of Kill List consists of a series of arguments between Mom and Hit-Man Dad because the money is running out. He hasn’t worked (killed anyone) in eight months because his back hurts. In the next third, he gets his groove back thanks to his hit-man buddy (Michael Smiley) and gets assignments to kill perverts, which is done in such graphic style that this movie must be classified as snuff porn. Then the cat gets hung by hit-man buddy’s girlfriend (Emma Fryer), and in the final third, the film turns into Wicker Man and Hit-Man Dad kills his buddy, his wife and his son. Ugly, pointless and silly.
Getting back to cats, I really liked Paw-Paw, the cat in Miranda July’s The Future, in which a troubled couple (July and Hamish Linklater) adopts a cat who serves as a catalyst (pun intended) to get the twosome to re-exam their lives.
The cat narrates the film (voiced in a cute and charming manner by July) and its fate moves the plot forward.
As the climax of the film approaches, the couple must get their act together in time to get to the animal shelter and retrieve Paw-Paw before she is put down.
You see where this is going, right? Poor Paw-paw.
Speaking of cats and climaxes brings us to Good Neighbors by Canadian film-maker Jacob Tierney. This is a great film-noir, serial killer story and besides the human actors (Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman and Emily Hampshire), also stars three cats: Mozart, Tia Maria and Balthazar. The feline trio plays an important role in the plot and for Emily Hampshire’s character, Louise. Louise has difficulty relating to people, but gets very affectionate with cats. (Look back to the fifth word in this paragraph.) Creepy, but well done.
Off course, the cats get offed, but not like Louise does.
You may be thinking that I’m a cat person. No way. (There has been a cat rubbing against my feet as I write this, but that’s her obsession, not mine.) I just want to encourage indie filmmakers to branch out and:
Leave kitty alone!
Go find a possum to pick on.
DISCLAIMER: No cats were harmed during the writing of this blog.