Image Description: Two cats (Victoria and Munkustrap) look off into the middle distance, with expressionless faces.
By Bayley Horne
When I saw that Luna Cinemas was putting on a screening of Cats, I was hesitant. Luna puts on some amazing interactive screenings – just last week they put on The Room for the billionth time – but the idea of a Cats session scared me. Something just seemed off about it all, but after some convincing from friends, I cautiously decided to head along.
Luna was buzzing with excitement. A large crowd had formed in the lobby, some of the staff were wearing cat ears, and a sizeable portion of the audience donned full cat outfits, complete with tails and a general lack of shame.
It’s at this point I should mention that I knew what I was getting into. I’d seen Cats before, and I knew it was a special kind of terrible. The first time I saw it, I started to have a breakdown the moment all the cats decided to start tap dancing inside a knockoff Hogwarts Express. Come to think of it, the breakdown probably started the moment Rebel Wilson stopped eating mice with children’s faces on them to unzip her flesh and reveal a showgirl outfit underneath (this actually happens twice in this movie because nothing’s sacred anymore).
Cats is an affront to cinema itself, a warning of how musical theatre can struggle when adapted to the silver screen, but I never thought it could be a ‘cult film’. Things like Rocky Horror or Birdemic captured something truly distinct when they were made. Maybe it resonated with a growing subculture, or was simply just laughed at for its incompetence, but Cats doesn’t fall neatly into either. It’s a big-budget blockbuster whose target audience was as wide as possible. Even the film itself isn’t horrifically made, the dancing is choreographed well, the singing is good for the most part, and while the CGI does sometimes look like it was ripped out of an early PS1 game, it can be decent.
But somehow, the film is so atrocious on every other level that it manages to upstage the few positives it has (or should I say, ‘paw-sitives’). Every single frame of the film is just disgusting to look at. The half-human, half-cat costumes may work on stage, but CGI’d into a film? It felt more like a horror film. The uncanny valley was fully reached with Dame Judy Dench’s face plastered onto a cat raising its leg into the air with what I can only assume was orgasmic joy. And the horniness, oh the horniness! Every single cat in this film is giving bedroom eyes to every other cat and it’s physically hurting my body. And I haven’t even discussed the pitiful ‘plot’ they try to inject into the story to give James Corden and Idris Elba some more screen time.
I think it is this curiosity in how they managed to kill Cats that led me to the screening, sitting directly in the centre of the audience. Out came our hosts for the evening, the Macri Sisters, who proceeded to introduce themselves like they were holding an AA meeting. My brain saw this as a gigantic red flag, but I was too deep into it to pull out.
We were given sheets with instructions on how to interact with the film as it was playing, and rules for the drinking game if you were so inclined. As Cats is so new, the rules for an interactive screening haven’t been fully set in stone, and thank god for that, because even the first rule (drink whenever they say “jellicle” as an adjective) would be enough to knock you unconscious within the first fifteen minutes. With the briefing done, the film started, and the pain began.
Except, it wasn’t truly pain. Yes, everything we were witnessing on the screen was painful, but the experience was incredible. I now realise that this is a perfect cult film.
We, a group of around 200 geeks with nothing better to do on a Friday night, managed to turn this flaming tire fire of a film into something more. We laughed at the cat puns, got creeped out by the human hands they all had, agreed James Corden isn’t funny, ignored anything Victoria had to say, and sung along to ‘Memories’ and ‘Mr Mistoffelees’.
At one point, I found myself shouting “Obama wouldn’t have let this happen”, and I still stand by that. Obama would not have let Cats be made, but made it was, and I’m happy that I got to experience it this way.
If Luna ever has another screening, you bet I’m gonna be there. Maybe next time I’ll even dress up for it and lose that sense of shame I’ve cultivated over the years.
4.5 stars out of 5
Bayley Horne is still trying to comprehend this “bonkers piece of media”.
Follow him on TikTok because he’s in charge and he can do what he wants (@bayleytse).
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures