Celluloid Diaries: Caturday Movies - The Uninvited

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Caturday Movies - The Uninvited

uninvited horror movie 1988

This week's Caturday Movie is brought to you by Justine Coote from The Overlook Theater and was previously published in the book When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals.

For a monster kid like myself, meeting legendary writer/director Greydon Clark was like meeting Alfred Hitchcock. Although Clark is not as well known or praised for his cinematic achievements, he has left his mark in film history and has inspired countless generations of grindhouse enthusiasts, creature feature kids, and independent filmmakers. Sitting with Mr. Clark at Monsterpalooza, I experienced his love of the genre first hand as we went from discussing his film It Came Without Warning (1980), which was admittedly the inspiration for the film Predator (1987), to one of Greydon’s lesser known creations, Uninvited (1988).

He placed a DVD in my hands with some of the worst cover art - an airbrush profile of a cat hovering above a small yacht in the ocean. "The best monster cat on a boat movie ever made!" Mr. Clark said about it, and I challenge anyone to disagree. The tagline - “Cats have nine lives. You only have one!” - lets the viewer know exactly what they’re in for: entertainment. Sadly this killer cat classic has never been given the respect it deserves. Not only was it made in an insanely small amount of time on a shoestring budget, but you can tell a lot of love went into the making of this film.

Husband and wife team, Jim and Debi Bouldin, are the creators of the cat creature. Jim Bouldin had already worked on the film Predator in 1987, but for Debi Bouldin this was her first onscreen FX work but by no means her last as she later went on to work on yet another feline run amok film, Strays (1991). Both would become the top creators of animatronic animals for TV and blockbuster films. The creation of these much needed animatronic and puppet animal effects allow for realistic yet cruelty-free action and stunts. It’s through their artistic abilities and love of animals (they own a rabbit, five cats, and a dog) that no killer cats were harmed during the filming of Uninvited.

The Bouldins were not the only noteworthy people involved in the creature feature. From Faces of Death and Friday the 13th part 3 to The Avengers and Django Unchained, Allan A. Apone’s resume would easily impress any sci-fi, action, or horror aficionado. Somewhere hidden amongst the classic and big budget titles lies Uninvited on which Allan was the makeup effects supervisor. Allan shows how to make a small budget count as his gore effects showcase creativity in a practical way without coming off as cheap. They even rival the bigger budget practical effects of its time.

A major part of the cast should not come off as strangers to fans of the horror genre either. Actress Toni Hudson went on to be in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3. Acting veteran Clu Gulager was one of the most recognizable characters in The Return of the Living Dead, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, and most recently Feast and Piranha 3DD. Clare Carey, you will recognize from the classic 1980s horror romp Wax Work. If you look deep into the resume of most great actors, directors, producers and makeup artists, you will find more than a few skeletons, or in this case cheesy low-budget horror releases, in their closets. But let's get back to the killer cat.

The premise is this: a radioactive mutant cat escapes a lab and ends up on a yacht with some spring breakers and an eccentric murdering mafia boss/eccentric stockbroker with a taste for young women. The cat has obviously been through a lot seeing how it’s in a rush to get out of the lab. The feline only mutates and attacks as self-protection and to protect those it cares about, much like most creatures found throughout Universal horror classics. To top it all off, if you’re bitten or scratched by the cat you end up contracting a disease that makes your skin burst out with boils before you die. As if that weren’t enough we have subplots involving old hit men questioning where they are in life, cheating girlfriends, embezzlement, and murder - not by the cat! Who is the real villain here?

This creature is the creation of man, this is not nature run amok. This is something to keep in mind throughout the film, that much like Frankenstein or Jurassic Park, it is humans with their God complexes and complete lack of understanding that are the antagonists. Murder, deceit, and greed all exist amongst these characters before the monster rears its ugly head. Taken from its home like King Kong, the cat is forced to survive by any means necessary.

The setting of a yacht allows for some beautiful and simultaneously bleak settings. The middle of the sea is a place of freedom and adventure but also of danger and solitude. Sailing out to sea allows our characters to be trapped by nature. Whatever troubles they’re escaping from pale in comparison to the troubles ahead where the most basic primal instincts become their only options. The ocean places them at the mercy of nature and turns bravery into fear.

The transition of cat to mutant animal is not that unusual within this story as innocents turn to violence rather quickly with every character. “Fight or flight” is a commonly used human instinct in horror or suspense movies. Quick decisions must be made when our lives or those of the people we love are in jeopardy. Primal instinct kicks in, and everyone on the yacht has to fight for their lives, not only when confronted with the killer cat but with fellow humans as well. In true horror/science fiction form, people never seem to be able to work together and get past their petty greed or jealousy, not even if life is on the line.

All in all, Greydon Clark’s Uninvited is a killer cat movie to be shared and enjoyed by the masses, a fun and cheesy creature run amok film that will have you loving how good bad movies can be. Clark pulls it off and gives the audience exactly what they paid for: entertainment! Creature kids worldwide will keep this title near and dear to their hearts for decades. In a better world, Mr. Clark would receive an Academy Award for his achievements. Sometimes I guess it’s just as good to have made “the best monster cat on a boat film ever."

This essay about Uninvited has previously appeared in the book When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals.

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