“I think I’m going crazy... as if my brain is being eaten by a cat!”
That’s how it feels to be an aging horror movie director, according to this spoof-autobiographical piece from celebrated goremeister Lucio Fulci. And, in case you still don’t get it, the idea is represented by the unforgettable sight of a stiff-legged cat puppet pawing at some minced beef. Yes, 1990’s A Cat in the Brain (also known as Nightmare Concert) finds the 63-year-old Fulci indulging in a bit of postmodern malarkey in much the same manner that Wes Craven would in his New Nightmare four years later.
Fulci plays himself in what essentially boils down to a kind of wraparound story, in which he believes himself to be going insane while a serial killer strikes wherever he goes. Meanwhile, clips from a few of his recent films – as well as some he merely supervised – play out in gory clip-show fashion, presented as hallucinations, dreams and supposedly real murders.
When it gets to the point that Fulci can’t even pop a ready-meal in the microwave without seeing visions of melting faces, he decides to visit a psychiatrist. And that’s when things get really strange, as Dr Schwarz appears to be having some sanity issues of his own... By his second session, the shrink claims to have watched all of Fulci’s films (57 according to the IMDb) and read all the scripts. No wonder he’s going a little crazy! And, sure enough, he’s soon hypnotizing Fulci and setting off on a killing spree of his own (or is he?).
It all sounds confusing and incoherent but, in reality, A Cat in the Brain is quite entertaining (much more so than some of the dire films from which footage is plundered, anyway). Whether this is due to Fulci’s bemused performance or the sheer amount of outrageous gore is hard to say, but there’s a light tone that makes it hard to take too seriously – which is perhaps why it got through the BBFC uncut (eventually). It is cheap and choppy, but that’s part of the charm. There’s even a sequence where the spliced-in violence is spookily effective, as Fulci wonders around a villa while murder victims are hacked up left, right and centre, seemingly oblivious to his presence.
Ultimately, the film is the product of a director having a little fun, and when it’s a director who’s provided his fans with as much fun over the years as Lucio Fulci, it’s hard to begrudge the man. As ever with Fulci films, I can’t leave you without quoting some of the more memorable lines from the script...
Psychiatrist: Now, you say the first manifestations of your illness have been the fear of hamburger and gardeners...
Fulci: The film we’re watching is the one I’m in the throes of shooting at the moment... and the violence in it is making me, mentally, deeply disturbed!
Fulci (describing a dream): It was a girl who was a pocket... and they shot a ball into her... on a pool table.
Newsreader: So far, there have been few clues to the identity of the killer, who is believed to be of middle-age and probably an apparently normal person.
Psychiatrist (to wife): Damn you! You’ve made a mess of my life. Damn you to hell! But now I’ve had enough... Enough!
Movie producer: If you’re trying to create a sensation like you do in your films, well, this time you goofed!