Strays (1991)

Directed by John McPherson

Written by Shaun Cassidy

Run Time: 82 (dull) minutes

Tagline: They have nine lives…We only have one!

Strays is yet another half-brained attempt at a “nature-gone-bad” film, the kind that inspires Netflix to constantly spam my inbox with “Hi Dennis! Here’s a movie that you just might like…” junk mails. Granted, as much as I love goofy “Nature’s Revenge” flicks, there is a limit to my patience. “Strays” steps way over the line. Steps way over the line with its little cat paws. Steps way over the line with its…damn…it’s really hard to find anything funny to say about this film.

So, ok, did I like “Strays”? Uh, no.

Is it worthy of this website? Hell yeah!

I was mildly surprised when I noticed that this movie came out as late as 1991…didn’t anybody learn their lesson after the endless stream of similar eco-terror films from the 70s? Hello!?…Frogs anybody?

Strays is blatant Made-For-TV turd written by TV’s own Shaun Cassidy. Yeah, him. Oh, and in another of those delightful Monster Shack coincidences, director John McPherson was alsothe cinematographer for the monstrously preposterous Jaws: The Revenge. How small the world of crappy movies truly is.

With a paltry runtime of 82 minutes, Strays has no time to waste on things like plot and character development. In this case, that’s fine for me. I just want to drink beer, watch cats scratch the shit out of somebody, and then pour myself into bed. If that’s all you ask of this film, then you should be ok.

We open with a moon-filled sky accompanied by a chorus of yowling cats because, you know, cats always yowl at the moon, right? I suppose this is intended to create an atmosphere of menace, but c’mon…the antagonists are cats for cripes sake. Just throw a shoe at’em and you should be fine…unless they’re evil, über Strays from Made-For-TV hell!

Cut to an isolated house located deep in the woods (which I guess is the definition of isolated), the kind of woods where evil cats have plenty of hiding places from which to jump out and kill scratch to death unsuspecting humans.

Switch to another bad-movie staple: Monster POV cam…it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to show the monster’s point-of-view than to, you know, show the monster! In any case, it’s made clear that the leader of the cats, a big grey tom, who for no apparent reason is determined to keep humans the hell out of his house. To be honest, I’m sort of glad they didn’t try to come up with some laughable explanation for the cats’ behavior…they just force us to accept the story for what it is. (crap) Anyway, the cats wack the old lady living there and we’re off and running.

A few days (weeks?) later, after the remains of the old lady have presumably been cleaned up, a new family of suckers moves in. Meet the Jarretts: Paul and Lindsey, proud parents of little Tessa and, of course, the family dog, Benny. (Uh uh!) Everything seems ok, and wow, what a great price! There can’t be anything sketchy about a house this nice for such a low asking price, can there? And those massive scratch marks on the trees? Who cares?!

Giant claw marks? Screw it, we’ll take it!

After moving in, the Jarretts discover the phones are dead, so a telephone repairman comes out to take a look. After a cursory examination, he reports the problem is because “rats…big rats” have chewed up the wires.

“Maybe you should consider getting a cat,” he suggests…hoo hoo hoo. Oh, my sides.

Mr. Repairman makes a plan to return in the morning and fix everything up nice and dandy again.

In the meantime, Paul is determined to be rid of the presumed rat problem and drives into town to purchase a heap of rat traps. (Side note: I don’t think you’d want to mess around with a large rat infestation unless you really knew what you’re doing. I happened to watch the “Rats” documentary on NetFlix the other day, and you don’t want to mess with those vicious bastards…) Anyway, on the drive home, out of nowhere, a cat hurls itself onto the windshield and causes Paul to lose control of the car and plunge into a ditch.

As always when I encounter goofy scenes like this, I love to go back use wonderful freeze-frame technology to examine things a bit closer…Ahhhh yes, just what I suspected: an off-camera stagehand tossing a hapless kitty onto the windshield of a their “driving” car now seen to be parked in a studio lot.

<

Uh, does anybody have the number to SPCA?

OK, now with the car crashed and the phones down, all the pieces of the puzzle are in place. Yessirree…somebody has certainly read their screenwriting handbook alright.

Oh, wait. Unfortunately we have to sit through an unforgivably dull sequence of pointless scenes showing us the Jarrett’s home life, a lunch with Lindsey’s sister, and, my God people! The film is only 82 minutes long to begin with…do you really need to pad it out?

(fast forward…)

(fast forward…)

(fast forward…)

Now this looks promising. Telephone repair guy is back down in the basement doing his telephony stuff, when All Of A Sudden © a whole shit load of cats appear and start meowing, hissing, and making that creepy growling noise that cats do when they’re about to tear your head off. (Believe me, I know that sound; I’ve had more than a few pet cats throughout the years). Despite the rapid off-screen tossing of several cats onto the actor’s writhing form (they probably clawed the hell out of his back when they landed on him), it’s hard not to chuckle at this mayhem. Nevertheless, these feral felines manage to overpower and kill a healthy, full-grown adult man. I leave the rest up to your imagination.

<

This is MY house now, Mr. Telephone Repair Man!

The next day, and nobody notices the repairman is missing?, Paul wakes up to discover the bed, pillows, and all of his clothes are covered in cat piss. How the cats soaked Paul’s pillow without waking him up is a testament to feline agility. Not to mention his piss-stained clothes are found hanging in his closet! And when I say Paul’s stuff is covered in piss, I mean covered in piss. Those buggers must have drunk at least a half-gallon of water each before sneaking up to his room last night.

Honey, do we have a cat?

After changing his pissy pajamas, Paul quickly discovers poor Benny cowering under the stairs half chewed-to-death. A frantic call to the veterinarian brings him rushing out to take a look at the battered beast. A cursory examination indicates that Benny will be OK (Whew! They wouldn’t kill a dog would they? ), but the Vet wants to take Benny back to the office with him for observation, and yeah, to get him out of the story to simplify the plot.

Puzzled Paul asks if cats could have done this…the Vet sagely answers, yes, feral cats could be the cause of Benny’s woes and, yeah, they could> have pissed everywhere. On the way out with Benny bundled up in his arms, the Vet offers as an afterthought a water pistol (!!!) to help fend off any future attacks. (Fair enough, THAT was pretty funny)

‘Tis but a flesh wound…I’ve had worse!

Despite Benny’s recent mauling by Powers Unknown, Pauls hitches a ride into town and leaves his wife and child alone, because he’s so damned important that work can’t wait. You know, I think he’s a divorce lawyer or something, it’s all a boring sub plot that involves his sister-in-law or something, who cares, but apparently Work Can’t Wait, and it’s important enough to leave his family behind in the creepy ass house. (RE: Silly Script Writing, chapter 3b.)

Well, after Paul’s exit it doesn’t take long before all hell breaks loose. (GOOD! Let’s get the damned story moving already!) You see, Lindsey goes upstairs to check on Tessa in her crib, and hey, isn’t Tessa a little too old to be sleeping in a crib? God. It’s amazing the things I get hung up on. Anyhoo…the crib is full of cats that came from…where?! (Dear Dennis…please stop, seriously, stop, asking so much of these stupid movies.)

After frantically tearing through the mound of cats from the crib, Lindsey thankfully discovers Tessa hiding in the closet and not haven been eaten by cats…(hmmmm…is there a different word I could use instead of writing “cats” over and over? “Felines”? I guess so. But it sounds a bit pretentious…not like that’s ever bothered me before, but…oh dear, am I writing this out loud?)

Note to viewer: This is scary.

Now it’s Big Grey’s turn to kick some ass. As Lindsey and Tessa barricade themselves in the bedroom, Big Grey starts to force his way in through the…yes, yep, kitty-sized air ducts!

No! Stop having air ducts big enough for monsters to get through!

Give us the child!

The sight of these poking, prodding furry forearms forces Lindsey to sweep wee Tessa up in her arms and flee into the basement. (Instead of, um I don’t know, outside! and run away!) In the basement lies (still!) the dead repairman, conveniently clutching his service telephone. Resourceful Lindsey wrenches the precious handset from the corpse’s hand and calls the police…reporting…what? A cat scratched the dog? A cat stuck his arm out of a hole? A cat pissed on my pillow? Oh yeah, send out the SWAT team for this one.

Realizing that the basement is a far too safe place to continue to hide in, because, you know, the plot and all, Lindsey and Tessa flee to the tool shed where there are at least…um, tools, to defend themselves with. (Or is it “with which to defend themselves”? Where is my 6th grade English teacher when I need her!?). Unfortunately, Lindsey’s sister Claire shows up (why?) to visit during a huge rainstorm! (I think they had a fight or something and she wants to apologize, if you really care.)

So Lindsey abandons Tessa in the shed to run inside the house to warn her sister. Tessa protests, naturally, but mom reassures her that it’s safe because the “cats won’t come out in the rain…”. (Oh!?)

Too late, Lindsey runs in the front door just in time to see Old Grey jump on Claire’s back and knock her over the second-story railing (!) and send her plummeting to her death on the hardwood floor below. Now that was pretty bad assed.

When Lindsey runs back to the toolshed, Tessa is gone (sigh). But where is Paul? Oh, he’s on his way home but it took a while because he got lost finding his own house! Dad rushes in and finds Tessa cowering in the kitchen surrounded by mean hissing clawing cats. Dad convinces her to crawl out the doggy door, “If you go real slow, the cats won’t hurt you,”… advice which at this point seems pretty much to have been proven bullshit.

Paul getting his ass kicked by a cat

With Tessa safely out of the house, the cats go nuts and attack Paul en mass. Paul struggles with Old Grey in a wrestling match on the floor before finally tricking it into biting an electric wire and bye bye kitty. Note to reader: The scene with Paul wrestling a puppet cat on the floor almost makes this movie worth watching.

Me bite man! Me bite ANYTHING!

Anyway, the Jarretts opt to sell the house (duh!), and drive off as the camera zooms onto a cute little grey kitten lounging under the front porch.

And that’s a wrap! Wait, what? This stupid movie still isn’t over? C’mon already! Cut back to the house for the umpteenth time to see a prospective buyer taking a look while Cat-Cam runs into the house.

“What’s that?”

“It’s just a cat,” says the real estate agent.

“Here kitty, kitty, kitty!” and fade to closing credits.

Dennis Grisbeck (May 2018)

Afterthoughts

For such a short movie, Strays felt like it lasted forever. The Big Scene at the end when Paul confronts Old Grey is hilariously bad…I mean, a grown man struggles to wrestle down a cat?! Maybe if they were rabid or something, but they’re just freakin’ cats! Watch it on YouTube if you’re having a good time and want something to bring you down and bore the shit out of you. Otherwise avoid this one like an overfull litter box…

Read more about Strays at

IMDB

1 comment to Strays (1991)

  • guts3d

    …avoid this one like an overfull litter box…

    Sounds like this was an 80’s schlockfest! I pray that all that beer you have been drinking keeps your brain cells anesthetized and protects your sanity! Another gem of a review!

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