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After watching all four films in the Airport series a few years ago, George Kennedy became one of my favorite actors. Watching him as Joe Patroni in those films, you start to believe that guy can do just about anything. Of course, Kennedy won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for Cool Hand Luke, but even Oscar winners end up in some less-than-Oscar-worthy films. Kennedy appeared in a lot of dreck. By 1988 he was no longer saving doomed aircraft, rather he was trapped on a yacht being terrorized by a mutant cat. Here comes Uninvited!
We open with a cute and cuddly cat escaping from some sort of genetic lab. The cat is only cute and cuddly some of the time, though, for inside its mouth lives some sort of demon cat which tends to leave a body count whenever its host barfs it up. Several people have already become victims by the time the cat is found by a couple of lovely young spring breakers, Bobbie (Clare Carey) and Suzanne (Shari Shattuck). They’ve been invited to set sail on the yacht of less-than-legit businessman Walter Graham (Alex Cord) who is always flanked by his two goons (George Kennedy and Clu Gulager). The girls also pick up a few guys looking for a good time and all of them jump on board Mr Graham’s ship, along with the cat. Little do the college kids suspect that Mr. Graham is headin’ for the Cayman Islands with a couple of million dollars, trying to avoid prosecution from the SEC.
The party starts to turn sour, though, when the mutant cat starts attacking the passengers…beginning with Graham’s two goons. Yep, George Kennedy is taken out when his foot is nearly bitten off by a slimy cat puppet. It’s soon learned, though, that even a small bite from the demonic feline is a death sentence since it’s bite is extremely poisonous. Then, a busted engine conveniently leaves our group of co-eds floating helplessly in the ocean, miles and miles from port. So, the survivors need to work together to fix the boat and locate the cat before it can kill again.
Essentially, Uninvited is what you get when you mix a spring break party movie with Alien…but instead of a spaceship it’s a boat, and instead of a xenomorph it’s a cat. The movie is as unintentionally funny as you think, in no small part thanks to the ridiculous looking puppet that plays the part of the evil cat. It looks a little bit like head of Triumph the insult comic dog sewn onto a Chewbacca doll that’s been left out in the sun for too long. When Clu Gulager’s character is attacked by the beast it looks like a brown feather duster is being thrown at him from an off-camera production assistant. Still, I did get a certain joy out of some of the crazier shots of this beast crawling out of the mouth of its more fluffy host.
George Kennedy is top billed on this film, but his part is actually pretty small. Still, if there’s one thing Kennedy doesn’t do, it’s phone in a performance. That’s not to say that all his performances are amazing, but you do get the impression that he’s giving it all he’s got. He seems to be at least making the effort to raise the level of the material. The same can’t be said for Clu Gulager who gives a bizarre and cartoonish performance, complete with a set of novelty teeth that Irwin M. Fletcher would envy. As for the young members of the cast, they’re far from the most annoying cast of spring breakers in movie history, if not terribly appealing either.
The film’s biggest misfire is that it doesn’t put a whole lot of effort into atmosphere or building suspense. I mean, part of what makes the Alien premise work so well is the endless dark corridors that make the audience feel as trapped and helpless as the crew. Here it’s bright and sunny rather than dark and mysterious. Heck, Bobbie and Suzanne spend almost the whole movie in their swimsuits! I mean, there’s a limit to how creepy a film can be when there are bare midriffs involved.
Uninvited does get pretty bloody. Some of the scene where the victims’ skin bulges due to the cat’s poison are gross, but crudely done. The film is not the slightest bit scary, though, and yet it still makes for a fun viewing experience. A film that has a premise that is this silly, yet takes itself this seriously, is always going to have a certain charm, and since seeing George Kennedy have his foot gnawed off by a poisonous demon cat should be on everyone’s bucket list, it ends up being a win for everyone.