***/**** Image B Sound B+ Extras B-
starring Nastassia Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O'Toole
screenplay by Alan Ormsby, based on the story by DeWitt Bodeen
directed by Paul Schrader
by Bryant Frazer Amid the American horror boom of the late-1970s and early-1980s, when everything old was new again and once-dormant studio properties like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing from Another World, and The Fly were suddenly valuable franchises, the script for a remake of Cat People, one of the most subtle of all horror classics, somehow ended up on Paul Schrader's desk. Why Schrader? Dumb luck, mostly. Certainly he had no great love for the source material, a 1942 horror film directed by Jacques Tourneur that Schrader famously (and charmlessly) claimed "isn't that brilliant." But he must have seen in the raw material the opportunity to make a deeply weird movie, one that fused a new mythology with a contemporary melodrama of fear, desire, and violence. The result is not just a personal expression of Schrader's own sex-and-death preoccupations, but a sort of high-water mark for the quixotic attempt to meld visually sophisticated erotica with commercially savvy narrative storytelling.