“This film is based on catual events”. That opening statement kinda sets the tone for Zombie Cats from Mars, a micro budget horror-drama-scifi-comedy-spoof-comingofage-weirdo adventure from director Montetré and writer Ryan Cloutier. As you can understand I couldn’t stop myself the first time I heard about the project, supported it on Kickstarter - which didn’t reach all the way through, and finally pre-ordered a blu-ray copy. I’m a self-confessed crazy cat guy, currently living in a suburb apartment with my partner Gregory and two cats: the small and bitchy Kitek and the younger, more naive and quite shy (though we’re convinced he’s just having a very high integrity) Buster. You can see a lot of photos of them on Instagram if you use the hastags #KitekTheKat and #BusterTheBastard.
Anyway now when the cat’s out of the bag, what the heck is Zombie Cats from Mars? It’s… well, it’s actually a bit hard to describe, beclawse it’s a straaaaange kitten. We follow some of the good folks in typical american suburb: teenager Billy (Brasen Koehler) who tries to find his identity as young gay man, his pal wacky Cameron (Estevan Muñoz) who have the hots for Billy’s mom (Stephanie Leet), Lester (Joon Rhee) and his wife Carolyn (Cheyenne Leigh Shaw) who are fighting to get a child etc. One night Billy and Cameron witnesses a small UFO over their hood, and what we see - but they don’t - is that a cat with glowing red eyes crawls out of it! Soon every cat in the neighbourhood is infected with the alien cat virus!!! Cat-astrophe!!!
It’s a lot of stuff going on in ZCFM, there’s more than few characters to keep control over as the audience - which can be both good and bad! It’s a movie which toys with clichés and conventions, and does it a very off-beat original way. Sometimes it feels like we’re visiting the set of a John Waters film and sometimes it’s social-realism cinema, kitten sink melodrama and then phasing over to corny, 50’s sci-fi spoof and almost purre surrealism. There’s instances where the humor and drama doesn’t reach all the way, but most of the time it actually works.
What surpurrses me the most is the cast, which is more competent than I ever could believed. Most of them are good, or even great (but we’re not talking about any Claws Kinski’s here though), and if they’re not skilled actors they’re charismatic and gives everything they’ve got. One that obviously will be a bigger star sooner or later is Joon Rhee as Lester. He gives us a convincing, complex portrait of a character that could have been a stereotype (church going, semi-sad working man with a slightly strained relationship at home with his wife). I urge other filmmakers to take a look at his work. The freakiest character is the cat-holic priest, played with a lot of originality by Ernest Adams, who might chew the scenery - but delivers the purrformance in a good way.
As for the cats, they’re of course the highlight and main tailents of the show! Sometimes helped with the magic of fake paws and plush cat stand-in’s, they goes from looking slightly bored to what the fuck is going on to edgy and furocious in their attacks against us humans! Which also comes to what I think is the most important thing with Zombie Cats from Mars: the love for cats. Made in cooperation with a Vancouver organisation called Furry Friends Cat Rescue, who both provided cats and cat handlers for the production. There’s way too many people out there who gets a kitten, get tired of taking care of it and let it go - which is animal abuse, cats are domesticated creatures - they like humans, they depend on humans (no matter how bitchy them seem to be) and we need to take care of them, give him love and a home.
Sure, Zombie Cats from Mars isn’t purrfect. I’m a professional myself in the biz (IMDB, acting site and Filmcafé) and might have done things differently. But that’s a whole different tail. Because ZCFM is a fun film, made with passion and love for the subject - sometimes bordering to the absurd (I mean, these cats can do everything - including handling a saw or a gun) which just makes it even more awesome! Looking at the bonus material on the blu-ray you’ll see so much people doing what the love and doing it with care. There’s a one hour making-of, mostly a fly on the wall project, which is interesting, a fun out-takes section, some complete scenes from behind the camera where you see the trouble of handling cats, there’s a makeup and gore featurette and a lot more.
What, did the cat got your tongue? If you don’t believe me, just watch it!
You can buy the movie at the production company’s homepage, and please don’t download. I don’t give a cats ass if you download Transformers 9, but stay out of destroying for the indies - especially those who’s still doing it because it’s fun and awesome and to do something good. It’s worth the money, and even if you don’t like it you’ve supported something with passion. Don’t accept copycats!
If Zombie Cats from Mars treats their future right, we might have a cult hit here - a lovingly homage to b-movies and teen angst, a perfect film for the Rocky Horror audience and us who might or might not have some kind of semi-sick obsession with our furry friends the cats. And for you who wonder, yes, Zombie Cats from Mars is perfect while enjoying some cat nip ;)