Directed by Michael Reich
Written by Michael Reich
Starring Mike Pinkney, Sonja Kinski, Flula Borg
What do you do if you’re an aspiring filmmaker currently working in the world of dog grooming who also happens to have a healthy obsession with Stephen King? You make a movie about an eccentric guy who works as a dog groomer by day that’s determined to shoot a remake of Carrie using only cats in his apartment. (Write what you know, kids.) The poster for Michael Reich’s She’s Allergic to Cats even looks like it could be a Mondo print of Cat’s Eye or Pet Sematary. The resulting fever dream of a film is most definitely horror adjacent, with some disturbing imagery and numerous nods to the genre world, mostly conveyed through the main character’s video art project that may or may not have some potential. A strange connection to horror is already shown in the all-cat version of Carrie concept that’s actually inspired by William Peter Blatty’s film The Ninth Configuration where actor Jason Miller (Father Damian in The Exorcist) plays a psych patient intent on a re-imagining of Hamlet with dogs. The connection with Carrie also comes around several times with shots of John Travolta as The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Told through music video breakdowns and surreal encounters that seem like they could be outtakes of Slacker, Reich’s feature debut as a writer/director shows us a form of isolation that is visually assaulting at times. Mercifully, the VHS warped video art and toe-curling imagery starts to resemble something more like Before Sunrise on acid.
Playing himself to an extent, Mike Pinkney’s inner thoughts are revealed through short interludes of static-filled, dream-like video sequences. Reich seems to be going for a hypnotic sort of choreography where life imitates art imitating ’90’s late night television where the viewer falls in and out of sleep watching indie music videos and cornball movies of the week on ABC. An actual friend of the director, the “character” of Mike seems to be an extension of the filmmaker, especially considering how they both came up with the idea of She’s Allergic to Cats together. The whole movie is really just a mindwalk inside the head of Mike and his personalized art world that leads him to a truly unique night out with the girl of his dreams. Sonja Kinski (Holidays) plays Cora, a seductive but unhinged introvert with a penchant for mischief. Kinski is alluring, vulnerable and absolutely crushable. She’s a true standout here even amid all the weirdness circling around her.
Coming from the music video world, it’s no surprise that there are so many good songs adding to that weirdness but also adding a real sense of longing. The soundtrack most notably features the song “Dream Full of Dreams” by brothers Don and Joe Emerson, who famously recorded a homemade album when they were teens in the late ’70s. Overlooked for decades, it wasn’t until Ariel Pink’s version of “Baby” when the Emerson Brothers finally got some recognition for their dreamy, teeny bop sound. Cowboys International also makes a splash with the song “Here Comes A Saturday” which pairs nicely with Instagram-esque boomerang shots of dogs being sensually massaged in slow-mo.
Reich intentionally degraded the image resulting in a gritty home video quality that makes the film seem like it’s been passed around from house to house. At first glance, you’d never realize that the film was shot on 4K on Red Cameras. Played through DVD players, MiniDV, and VHS cassettes, the stomped on nature makes it look like this was filmed in another time and, in fact, Reich and Pinkney finished the film four years ago and it’s just now seeing the light of day.
Tailor made for the underground independent film scenesters that grew up in the video rental era, She’s Allergic to Cats is a purrfect addition to a growing subculture dedicated to lo-fi visual stylings coupled with truly talented creatives that might not actually care about making it in the business. They’re just in love with the making of the thing. Available now on VOD from Giant Pictures, the film will also be making its virtual screen debut at an exclusive engagement today, April 30 at 7 PM EST, on the Spectacle Theater Twitch channel with live commentary from Michael Reich.
If you’ve ever wanted to see an all-cat version of Carrie mixed with a surprisingly sweet, hallucinatory portrait of an awkward first date, then this could be the movie for you.