Cats feature in a great many horror and fantasy movies. They leap out at people, they hiss and scratch and bite, or they lurk in a sinister fashion. Sometimes they have paranormal powers, or cause accidents with their uncanny feline senses.
Cat lovers, on the whole, find all these attempts to make cats frightening at best amusing, at worst a bit desperate. We’ve always been aware cats are predatory carnivores that look out for Number One – that, combined with their innate adorability, is a large part of their appeal – but it’s this very self-centredness that makes it hard to believe they would go out of their way to wreak physical harm on human beings. They just couldn’t be bothered. And anyway, we’re bigger than them.
But what if we weren’t? Of all cats in films, the one I find the most terrifying is Butch in Jack Arnold‘s film of Richard Matheson‘s novel (scripted by the author). Scott Carey (Grant Williams) comes into contact with a sparkly mist and, a few months later, with some insecticide. It’s a devastating combination. He begins to shrink. As he gets smaller, naturally, he starts feeling less of a man. But that’s not the worst of it…
A moment’s inattention by his long-suffering wife, and Butch (who looks to me like a ginger tom, though the film is in black and white) slips in from the garden and corners Scott in the doll’s house where he has been living. After a grim pursuit and battle, Scott falls into the cellar; his wife, when she gets back from the shops, can find no trace of him and assumes he’s been eaten. “Carey’s death was the result of an attack by a common house cat, a former pet in the Carey home,” announces the TV newscaster.
The reason this is so terrifying is that, while cat-lovers have a hard time imagining a cat would jump out or attack us for no reason, we have absolutely no doubt at all that if we were to shrink down to the size of, say, a mouse, we would immediately be stalked, sadistically toyed with and eaten. Because that’s what cats do.
We’re not specifically informed that Butch has been put down after the unfortunate incident. But if your cat had just eaten your tiny husband, what would you do? Anyhow, here’s a picture of Butch in happier times: