Sometimes a director’s body of work can have that one title that fans of the director’s work will constantly try to decipher what the meaning of the film or what the director’s vision behind the film was, long after the director himself as past on. Such was and is still the case with the late Italian master of splatter Lucio Fulci and one of his later films. “A Cat in the Brain” is an early 90s Italian splatter film that sadly goes unnoticed by casual horror fans and is only really discussed by fans of Lucio Fulci and those insatiable gore hounds.
Here Lucio Fulci plays himself! An italian director of extremely gory horror films who is in the midst of making yet another gory horror film, just like any other day in his blood soaked career, but after the camera stops rolling his life is far more out of his control than he would like. He is plagued by visions of bloody horror day after day and fears he is losing his mind due to all the nightmares he makes on screen. Lucio Fulci begins to see a psychiatrist for help, but the shrink has bigger plans. The psychiatrist moonlights as a serial killer and begins using Lucio Fucli’s Nightmarish visions for brutal murder in real life, meanwhile trying to convince Fulci that he is responsible for the murders.
Now to even a slightly seasoned horror fan there is no denying that Lucio Fulci is one of the greats of Italian horror and of excessive gore in the horror genre too with his “golden age” films like Zombie, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, House by the Cemetery, and New York Ripper. Sadly Lucio Fulci’s later films did not have a same impact as his earlier work and were quite sub-par. That is until his very meta gore-soaked nightmare film “Cat in the Brain” came out and though it suffered from some of the same sub-par qualities as the rest of his work from the time it offered fans a quite questioning look into the psych of Lucio Fulci himself… Maybe.
Now before I get into the more meta aspects of the film i would just like to wet the appetite of all the gore hounds and say that Lucio fulci’s A CAT IN THE BRAIN does indeed wet gorehounds appetite by the buckets and there is a good reason for that, in the film poor Lucio Fulci’s visions subject him to closeups of chainsawed limbs, cannibalism, tongues ripped out, brutal stabbings and slashings, bodies ran over to a pulp with his car, face ripping, decapitations, faces mutilated with shards of glass, plenty of eyeball mutilations, A raunchy Nazi orgy and finally a vision of a little boy getting decapitated with a chainsaw all the while the serial killer psychiatrist is killing women with fish hooks to the guts with close ups to the innards spilling out and more decapitations via hatchets and finally a closeup shot of a cat (being a bad cat puppet) literally eating a brain.
Now Cat in the Brain isnt without its faults, like many of Lucio Fulci’s later horror films it suffers from bad acting, banal dialogue, bad music and half of the gore scenes though they are quite extreme can be considered cheesy looking, Though perhaps Lucio fulci wanted the gore to be cheesy maybe to say how unreal all his visions truly are in the film. perhaps. Though the film suffers a few faults it makes up for it in the plot itself and instead of some actor playing Lucio Fulci losing his mind due to all the horror movies he has been constantly shooting, Lucio Fulci plays himself. a Decision that has been making fans wonder what Lucio Fulci is trying to say with the film. when one watches the film they are left to wonder is Lucio Fulci himself showing his audience his real fears and what making one gory horror film after another has done to his psyche and were witnessing an aging horror film directors real fears on screen blending life and art into one nightmarishly gory vision after another Or maybe…just maybe the whole film is Lucio Fulci on a giant self-ironic self-deprecating Joke on his own career as a horror film Director. For me I believe it is a little of both.
I believe Lucio Fulci made A Cat in the Brain to make just a little fun of his own career as a horror film director but also to give a cautionary tale to young horror film directors as to what shooting one too many kill scenes can do to you. I make short bloody horror films myself and I always tend to question what too much of that can do whenever i watch Fulci’s A Cat in the Brain, hell i can remember showing my older brother the film and he turned to me and said “i hope that never happens to you” And perhaps that is the goal of the film, what Lucio Fulci wanted us to think when watching his film, to question what he was thinking when making this film whether or not the real life Lucio Fulci is going crazy or he is simply making fun of himself but also for other horror filmmakers to take some advice from an aging horror director. One cant really put there finger on it all the way. and that in lies the beauty of the mans bloody soaked nightmarish vision.
– James J. Coker