October 20, 2019

LEGEND OF THE DEMON CAT: A Bad Kitty in More Ways Than One

Starring Xuan Huang, Shota Sometani, Yuqi Zhang, Hao Qin. Directed by Chen Kaige. (120 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

As the roommate of two cantankerous felines, I can attest that cats generally don’t listen or follow directions. They may indeed be trainable, but it takes more patience than I can ever hope to muster. Stinky continues bathing herself on my dining room table because I’ve long-since given up trying to keep her off.

Maybe the producers of Legend of the Demon Cat lacked the required patience, too. Maybe they first-tried using a real cat, only to have it sit on a table and lick its ass. Maybe Hong Kong ain’t exactly teaming with skilled cat wranglers. So maybe someone finally threw up their hands and said, “Screw it, go fire-up a couple o’ laptops.”

So the title creature is entirely rendered in CGI, and if that isn’t a testament to the overall incorrigibility of cats, I don’t know what is.

But damn, how ‘bout putting a little effort into it? If your whole premise is built around a ferocious feline exacting revenge on those responsible for an empress’ murder, wouldn’t you make sure the critter was at-least marginally convincing? Instead, this is a bad kitty in more ways than one, looking like a cartoon character and atrociously animated. Which is a damn shame because the rest of Legend of the Demon Cat boasts impressive special effects and spectacular production design. 
"Cat? What cat?"

The horror-tinged fantasy story is fairly engaging, though overly-complex with too many characters to keep track of. In a nutshell, this black cat – with an appetite for eyeballs – is wreaking havoc among the hierarchy of the Tang Dynasty, resulting in the death of the current emperor. The official cause of death is listed as the flu, but Letian, the emperor’s scribe, and Kukai, a Japanese exorcist, suspect otherwise. Their investigation leads them to the dilapidated palace of the former Emperor, where the spirit-embodied cat reveals deadly treachery that occurred there three decades before. Or is the empress onlymostly dead? Either way, kitty wants some payback.

Kind of a crazy plot, but when your primary antagonist is a vindictive housepet, that’s probably a given. Speaking of which, as silly as this creature looks, the film is at its most interesting when the cat is part of the narrative. Especially amusing is a sequence where it pops-up at a brothel with a serious case of ‘the zoomies’. It reminded me of my other cat, Josey, only she never clawed-out any eyeballs (for which I’m grateful). However, there are some lengthy stretches of feline-free exposition that tend to disrupt the pace and tone.

While overlong, Legend of the Demon Cat is ultimately worth checking out. Aside from the embarrassing title creature, this is a great looking film and the story is just bizarre enough for the viewer to endure the duller stretches. If only they had utilized just a few more gigs in their hard drive.


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