CATS: An unsettling atrocity


Photo courtesy of The New Yorker

CATS is one of the worst films in recent memory, failing at the box office and ultimately scarring anyone who has seen it.

Edison Geiler, MWHS Wildcat News Editor-in-Chief

Never has there ever been such an appalling film as director Tom Hooper’s CATS. It’s not simply a frustrating or terrible movie: it’s unsettling. I’ve never felt more assaulted by a piece of cinema than I did while watching this dumpster fire. The music is terrifying and paired with nauseating cinematography, audiences are inclined to focus on the hideous CGI Jellicle cats rather than the bewildering plot. It lacks a level of competency that makes me lose faith in all the creative minds behind this project. I could barely feel any embarrassment for the actors while watching because the movie constantly bombarded me with feline images straight from a fever dream that paralyzed me in my seat. 

Nothing about this movie works. 

It demonstrates no dexterity of the filmmaking process. The actors are either terrible or unnerving (or for Jason Deurlo both), which is confusing since there are many talented people in the cast. Regardless of Rebel Wilson (Jennyanydots) and James Corden’s (Bustopher Jones) inability to make me laugh, there are many great actors, like Dame Judi Dench (Old Deuteronomy) and Sir Ian McKellen (Gus the Theatrical Cat) who seem lost. Except for Jennifer Hudson (Grizabella), no one turns in even a passable performance. 

The plot is equally terrible. At no point during my viewing could I follow what the characters were doing. The story follows the tribe of the Jellicle cats (humanoid feline creatures) deciding which member of their group should ascend to a new life, which is consistently interrupted by the evil Macavity’s attempts to foil the annual event. It’s a clunky narrative strung together by a collection of poems, making it incredibly difficult to understand.

That’s what hurts this movie the most.

The plot’s cohesiveness is damaged by the horrendous CGI and when audiences can’t focus on the story, they are going to be horrified by what’s being forcefully stuffed into their eyes. It’s a constant circle that makes audiences further descend into madness as the film drags along. While watching, I slowly started losing my sanity with every terrifying Jellicle or human-faced cockroach. It’s a misguided piece of art that ultimately makes audiences feel uncomfortable, begging for the merciful release of the credits.

The cinematography only adds to this nightmarish experience. Cameras are either positioned too close to the actors while they are singing and dancing, or constantly rotating around in a nauseating fashion. While trying to immerse the audience through various shot compilations, it unintentionally creates a relationship between the viewers and the film that is truly painful to sit through. Furthermore, it’s one of the ugliest films ever made. The color palette is dreadful and contrasts with what the production crew had intended.

Many of the musical numbers are also terrifying. The instrumental tracks for this film give off more of a creepy vibe than they do a wondrous or imaginative one. It makes the audience believe that they should be scared of these cats and unnerved by their ritualistic movements. There are some catchy tracks like “Magical Mr. Mistofelees,” but they ultimately only add to a hellish viewing for the audience.

It’s clear they wanted this film to be a gorgeous spectacle that immerses audiences into Jellicle society, however, the realistic color choices makes it vile to watch and furthers its intense discomfort. The cats seem too real with the color palette, which results in severely disturbing audience members.

The CGI is the worst I’ve ever seen in a film.

Photo courtesy of TIME
Jason Derulo is one of the most terrifying aspects of CATS. The freakish makeup and costume only add to the hideous face he is making at the camera. Shots like these litter the film, making it a traumatic experience for audiences.

I’ve seen corny or straight up terrible special effects before. None of them have inflicted as much emotional pain as the ones in CATS did. There have been effects that detract from a story or make the audience giggle in their seats, but I’ve never been scared of CGI when that wasn’t the intention. This isn’t a horror movie, but it’s one of the scariest films in recent memory. Combined with the cinematography, it’s a traumatic experience that I wish I could take back. The Jellicle cats move only a little awkwardly, just enough to unsettle viewers. 

When it begins to launch into a huge ensemble musical number, the terrifying movements are more pronounced, producing a scene that feels more like a Satanic ritual than a musical based off of T.S. Eliot poems.

CATS is a nightmare that will horrify casual audience members. From its CGI to its music and cinematography, it pulls viewers down a black hole that slowly envelops them in madness. It’s one of the worst films in history created by an ultimately talented crew, but no one was invested in this piece of trash. It will be buried in the dirt with its awful box office performance, a fitting resting place for a movie so disgraceful. Nothing about it works and CATS deserves to be forgotten once it leaves theaters.