SassyFlix | Cat People

Cat People

  • R
  • 1982-04-02
  • 01:58:00
6/ 10
285 votes

Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

A prologue set in an undisclosed, primitive human settlement shows a sacrificial maiden being tied to a tree. A black panther approaches and rests its paws on her, and the scene fades to black. Another girl with feline features approaches a similar big cat in a cave, without incurring its attack.

A close-up of her face segues to that of similarly featured Irena Gallier, who travels to present-day New Orleans from Canada to reconnect with her brother Paul. Irena was raised in foster care after they were orphaned. Paul spent his childhood in psych wards, is now involved in a church and lives with his Creole housekeeper Female.

That night, a prostitute named Ruthie walks into a fleabag motel to meet a john, but instead finds a melanistic leopard that mauls her foot. The police and zoologists Oliver, Alice and Joe capture the panther. Meanwhile, Irena wakes to find Paul missing. Female guesses he went to the mission and urges Irena to enjoy New Orleans on her own.

Irena visits the zoo, is drawn to the newly captured leopard and stays after closing hours. She is discovered by Oliver, the zoo's curator, who takes her to dinner and offers her a job in the gift shop. Irena reveals she is a virgin in conversation with Alice, who shares a romantic history (and is still in love) with Oliver and sees her as a rival. One day the leopard tears Joe's arm off during a routine cage cleaning. Joe bleeds to death and Oliver resolves to euthanize the cat, only to find it missing. In its cage lies a puddle of melted flesh like the one found by the motel prostitute.

Paul turns up and makes a sexual advance towards Irena. She flees, flags down a police car and has second thoughts about turning Paul in, but a police dog catches a strong scent from the house and a detective is called in. In Paul's basement, police find shackles, bones, and remains of dozens of corpses. They figure Paul is a serial killer who fed corpses to a captive panther, and call in Oliver and Alice to inspect.

On the run from Paul, Irena takes refuge in a frustrated romance with Oliver, fearing the consequences of physical intimacy. Paul visits Irena again and explains their shared werecat heritage, thus revealing himself as the escaped murderous leopard. Mating with a human transforms a werecat into a leopard, and only by killing a human can it regain human form. He tells her their parents were siblings because werecats are ancestrally incestuous and only sex between werecats prevents the transformation. He resumes his sexual advances, hoping Irena will accept their predicament, but she does not. Paul then transforms, attacks Oliver and is shot by Alice. Oliver starts an autopsy on the cat. A green gas emanates from the surgical cut and a human arm and hand reach up from within the corpse. Before he can document this, the leopard melts into a pool of green slime.

Irena stalks and nearly attacks Alice twice. She later has sex with Oliver and transforms into a leopard but she flees, sparing his life, and is later trapped on a bridge by police. Oliver arrives in time to see her jump off the bridge. Realizing where she is headed, he confronts Irena at a secluded lake house. She has regained human form by killing the house's caretaker. Irena tells Oliver she did not kill him because she loves him, and begs him to kill her. When he refuses, she begs him, then, to make love to her again so she can transform and "be with [her] own kind." Oliver ties Irena naked to the bedposts by her arms and legs to restrain her, and has sex with her.

Some time later, Oliver is again in a one-sided relationship with Alice. He stops at the cage holding the "recaptured panther"—Irena, now permanently trapped in her cat form. Oliver reaches through the bars, casually hand-feeds and strokes the now-docile panther's neck.