Regular reader and Nebraska Energy Observer contributor Audre Myers frequently tells me that I am offering a valuable service by describing movies people should not see (if you agree with Audre, I take donations). This Monday’s film, 2016’s She’s Allergic to Cats, likely qualifies, and I would like to apply it towards my contributions to humanity.
The description for the movie on Shudder.com reads thusly:
A lonely dog groomer in Hollywood searches for love, but his true passion is making weird video art that nobody understands. His menial routine spirals out of control when he meets the girl of his dreams, crossing boundaries between reality and fantasy as he dives deeper into his video experiments.
I guffawed as soon as I read the line “making weird video art that nobody understands.” That sold me on the flick, which I actually found enjoyable, if baffling.
The basic premise is that the protagonist, Michael, lives in “a rat-infested Hollywood dive,” working bumblingly as a dog groomer, while spending his evenings working on weird video projects. He’s also trying to raise money “for an all-cat remake” of the 1976 film Carrie. The film is semi-autobiographical, as the real-life Michael Reich actually does make “weird video art that nobody understands” and used to work as a dog groomer in Hollywood (it’s unclear whether or not he lived in “a rat-infested Hollywood dive”).
While poorly grooming a dog—he clips off too much of the pup’s nail!—Michael meets a girl, Cora (Sonja Kinski), and instantly takes a liking to her. He also tries to pitch his all-cat remake to his slimy friend Sebastian (Flula Borg), who dismisses the idea. That’s about the only bit of good advice he gives Michael, and it’s clear Sebastian is extremely self-involved and disinterested in his oddball friend.
Michael’s apartment—as mentioned—has a rat problem, so his flakey landlord (seen on a bike with a guitar going to play a gig on the Sunset Strip) promises to do Wikipedia research (one the more hilarious lines in the film). Out of desperation—the rats have eaten his bananas!—Michael borrows a cat from his work. The cat is notoriously ornery, so Michael figures she’s the perfect predator to deal with the pesky rodents.
After a lot of weird and disturbing video interludes, Michael gets a date with Cora. On the date they discover a lost dog, and break into the dog’s owner’s home to return the pup. In the process, they steal a DVD of Congo (1995), then head back to Michael’s place, where they begin doing inappropriate things together.
In the midst of the grown-up activities, the ornery cat gets out, and Cora experiences a severe allergic reaction. Michael—hoping this girl would help him break out of his ennui—finds himself back where he started.
That’s a very quick way of getting to the punchline (and the title of the film). Throughout, the flick features intercut scenes of Michael’s weird videos, blurring the line between reality and fantasy. A persistent image is a pet crate on fire, which eventually melts during Cora’s allergic shock.
I don’t pretend to know what these images are supposed to say—a lot of them are of dogs and cats, and some scenes of Hollywood—but I suspect the videos themselves are supposed to be a way for the audience to witness Michael’s attempts to cope with his subpar life, and to process artistically his attraction to Cora (it’s also a way to pad out a Twilight Zone episode story line into a feature film).
Indeed, a clever touch is that it appears the entire movie has been filmed directly to VHS tape. I don’t know if that’s how it was filmed, or if that was an effect added in later, but it had the quality of a very well-shot home movie from the 1990s.
Given that I found this flick on Shudder, it seems like it should be a horror movie. While there are some unsettling scenes and imagery, there’s nothing particularly “horrific” about the movie (the bloodiest moment is when Michael clips the puppy’s nails to the quick, producing a droplet of blood) other than Cora’s shock at the end.
But the movie is quite funny in a dry, dark, weird way. It’s quirky, but not Zooey Deschanel quirky. It’s much darker than anything Deschanel could ever appear in. There were points when I cracked up over the one liners. If anything, it had more of a The Cable Guy (1996) feel to it, just not quite as wacky. Just like The Cable Guy‘s humor rests in some of the delivery of the lines and the contexts for them, She’s Allergic to Cat‘s humor works the same way.
We’re giving a glimpse into a very sad but humorous world. I read once that all comedy is, at bottom, tragic. I don’t think I believe that, but there is a ring of Truth to it. At least some comedy is tragic, and She’s Allergic to Cats captures that spirit well.
That said, most viewers will want to skip this one. If you’re a weirdo like me, though, this flick is the cat’s pajamas.