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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Black Cat (2007) Review

So I rewatched this episode of Masters of Horror at 5am. To simply call it an episode of a TV show doesn't come close to doing it justice. It's an hour-long biopic of Edgar Allen Poe. It's not a biopic because it chronicles a long stretch of Poe's life, it's a biopic because it comes closer to honestly portraying the genius writer than any film ever has. Poe was a dark, disturbed, fuck-up who was screwed up from childhood. He was also a mad poet with an extremely imaginative mind.

The Black Cat empathizes with Poe to such an intense degree that it made me cry. Stuart Gordon's (the director and co-screenwriter) tour-de-force film has this synergy of outstanding music, that you'll probably remember til' you die; acting that has a deep understanding of the man and his cohorts; micro-managed directing; perfect set and costume design; make-up effects that make you feel as if your bone-cartilage is leaking blood; and densely-researched screenwriting. Everything ends up feeling so real by the end.

Actor Jeffrey Combs plays the great man himself. Combs totally embodies Poe. He is the exact right height, he bares an awful resemblance to him, and he grew up in the exact same area of America that Poe did so he does Poe's southern-accent perfectly. All he needed was a fake nose for the role, which he got courtesy of KNB Effects. It's truly a performance that makes you forget you're watching an actor.
Stuart Gordon wrote this story along with his long-time writing partner Dennis Paoli. Gordon is used to making films that are adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft tales. His most famous is 1985's horror-comedy Re-Animator. Gordon usually makes his movies gorey and trashy. They are very entertaining, but only really serve as cheap thrills. The Black Cat is different on a number of levels. It's not exploitative, only horrifying, as any honest portrayl of Poe should be. It's also only comedic in ways that are believable in their situation. I always knew that we could expect more form Gordon than what he gave us; he always struck me as a smart guy that had a good understanding of horror.

It's called The Black Cat because it weaves Poe's story "The Black Cat" into Poe's real life. It is amazing how well it works. You can very well see where he might have been coming from when he wrote his story.
It was his beautiful, piercing, "dream within a dream."

Poe's real-life wife, who was also his cousin, is portrayed by unknown actress Elyse Levesque. Virginia was his rock, but she suffered from the white plague as a very young woman. This is part of what tears Poe apart, his true love for Virginia that he depended on, but not being able to care for her. They were both living in poverty, which is mirrored in the movie.

The Black Cat is spellbinding. All I can imagine is the stars were in alignment during a crucial point when this film came together. It even fortuitously aired for the first time on Edgar Allen Poe's birthday, January 19. As Gordon says, "You can't talk about the masters of horror without Poe."

5 out of 5.


  1. welcome to the hba
    jeremy [iZombie]
    hba staffer

  2. Great review

    I feel that any fan of Poe's work will enjoy this installment of the series.

  3. That was simply the best episode of Masters of Horror as far as I'm concerned. "Jenifer" was another good one too.