Three horror-thriller tales from Stephen King revolve around a mysterious stray cat which is attempting to find a little girl in trouble.
The first story is called ‘Quitters Inc.’ Dick Morrison (James Woods) is given the name of a company called Quitters Inc which he is told will cure his obstinate nicotine addiction and decides to check them out.
In their swanky city offices, he meets the misogynistic head of the scheme Dr Vinny Donatti (Alan King) – who tells Morrison of their excellent success rates. Morrison enrols in the programme but soon discovers the alarming reason why this unconventional company has such a high success rate. There will be dire consequences for any lapse and these will involve Morrison’s wife – who may be subjected to electric shocks, mutilation and/or rape.
Quitters Inc let it be known that they will be watching Morrison all the time wherever he is to make sure that he doesn’t weaken and smoke.
Woods is excellent as the smirking, twitchy and increasingly stressed Morrison as he desperately craves a sneaky smoke but is hopelessly paranoid that someone from Quitters Inc is watching him at all times.
The second story – ‘The Ledge’ – features washed-up tennis player Johnny Norris (Robert Hays) who plans to elope with the wife of wealthy and compulsive Atlantic City gambler Cressner (Kenneth McMillan).
Cressner finds out and forcibly brings Norris to his high rise apartment where he offers him a wager. If Norris can successfully navigate his way around the outside of the apartment on the small ledge without falling he’ll let him go free and he can have Cressner’s wife and a pile of money to boot.
Cressner is an enjoyably horrible sleazebag who plants heroin in the car of Norris to assure he complies with the little game he has devised. McMillan has a lot of fun as the sleazy Cressner, laughing as Norris wobbles and clings around the ledge with the wind whistling around him, always a moment away from falling to his death.
The attempt by Norris to painstakingly get around the outside of the building on this tiny ledge is nicely staged with a good deal of tension as his tormentor attempts to knock him off by various methods, including a fire hose. Acrophobics will certainly find this a tense experience.
The final story in the anthology is called ‘The General’ and features the cat that has appeared throughout the film to the frequent strains of a cover version of Every Breath You Take.
The cat’s wandering minstrel adventures seem to have a happy ending when he is taken in by a little girl called Amanda (Drew Barrymore) who names him “General”.
Things get slightly bizarre as a miniature troll sneaks out of a hole in the skirting board in Amanda’s room each night and attempts to steal her breath – in addition to menacing the parrot and generally causing a mess.
Naturally, Amanda’s insensitive mother (Candy Clark) blames the innocent cat for all this kerfuffle and plans to be rid of him.
References to other Stephen King works are made in a none-too-subtle, self-congratulatory way. Christine the car and Cujo the dog make cameo appearances. One character reads Pet Sematary in bed and another watches The Dead Zone on television.
Dr Vinny Donatti
Charles S. Dutton