Review: Lily C.A.T. (1987)

In 1979, Ridley Scott revolutionized the horror genre by introducing a story of terror set in space that felt more claustrophobic and frightening that anything that had come before it. That film was Alien, the first in a series of now very well known films, comics, and even video games. Hell, there were multiple Alien based toylines, including the current ReAction line from Funko. This film sparked the beginning of a movement of sorts, as other filmmakers then decided to try their hand at sci-fi horror. John Carpenter gave us The Thing, Bruce Clark gave us Galaxy of Terror, William Malone gave us Creature, and we all love these films as they delved into the horror beyond the stars.

Of course, Roger Corman had to make sure we got to see messy alien rape too.
But over on the other side of the world it turned out that a Japanese director was working on his own sci-fi horror film. Hisayuki Toriumi, best known for directing the animated series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (or Battle of the Planets if you grew up in the states), collaborated with Yasuomi Umetsu, Carl Macek, and the legendary artist Yoshitaka Amano to bring a film to life that is essentially an animated film that combined elements from Alien, The Thing, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Do I have your curiosity up now? Well, then join me as we explore this animated horror import.

Take your bets on who will die first.
Our film opens on a ship flying through space in the far flung 23rd century. In this time it seems companies are about as trustworthy as Weyland-Yutani, trying to beat one another to planets for mining rights. I'm sure they care about their employees just as much as the aforementioned company too. While the crew of the ship is still in cryosleep, some debris gets inside the ship while the computer tries to collect a sample of it. I'm sure that won't come back to hurt anyone at all. It is then that we are introduced to our cast, a rather diverse cast of characters who I will now list off through the magic of copy/paste. They are:
  • Hiro Takagi of the Japanese division
  • Dick Berry of the Australian division
  • Nancy, the daughter of the company president
  • Lily, Nancy's cat
  • Dorothy Van Fallah
  • Morgan W. Scott
  • Jimmy
  • Dr. Harris Mead
  • Captain Mike Hamilton
  • Dular
  • Walt
  • Carolyn
  • Guy
  • Watts
Much like Alien and other films of the like, they have to use cryosleep so they don't age immensely on their twenty year journey and end up being a bit too old to enjoy their paychecks. But some intrigue is introduced as it is revealed that two members of the crew are actually impostors.

I'm betting on Morgan, honestly. He looks way too much like Dolph Lundgren for me to believe he is who he says.
But things get even more intense when displace action movie hero, Morgan, turns up dead of a mysterious infection and totally not from an alien thing on board the ship. It turns out that the infection is a bacteria of some sort that dissolves the body, leaving only a person's clothing. But hey, it doesn't just affect humans. It also isn't really a disease so much as it is a horrible alien monster that infects and absorbs people. But, as I said, not just people.

A cat is fine too.
Poor Lily isn't the only one to get it though, as Dr. Mead also shows up dead before we see the animal atrocity happen, which doesn't help people keep calm. This leads to background checks on everyone as they try to figure out who the two impostors are. While this is going on, the captain finds that both Watt and Guy are also dead in the transport bay. Things definitely aren't going so well, so yeah, when the kitty gets eaten they're in full panic mode. The captain tries to jettison the infected area of the ship, but we can all figure out how well that will work. In this state of panic, Dorothy goes off on her own to make sure she isn't infected and ends up getting offed by the alien bacterial monster.

Meanwhile, the captain looks so done with everything that I'm shocked he doesn't just blow the ship up.
The bad news isn't over yet though, as the hangar bay opens on its own while Dular and Walt are in there, resulting in them both getting sucked out into space and dying rather terribly. Something tells me this may not have a very happy ending for the majority of the crew. It's then that the others figure out that someone is controlling the computer from inside the now locked computer room and they can't get in, nor can they figure out who is doing it. Dick thinks Dorothy may be responsible, but Hiro doesn't think so. The rest of the group finds her clothes in the sickbay, just like how the other bodies all vanished. Hiro figured she was there to check herself out, as he did it himself earlier. It's then it is revealed Hiro and Dick are the two impostor, with young Hiro being a criminal looking to escape arrest and Dick being a detective out to track him down.

Such a shocker that the trigger-happy prick turned out to be a cop.
The captain then gives a speech about how old him and his main crew are, as they've been doing this for quite a while and are all well over a hundred years old. He tells them that all of their petty struggles will be forgotten and unimportant by the time they make it back home. Cue the horrible alien showing up and cycling through the faces of their dead friends that it seems to have absorbed into its body. They all decide to gear up to fight the creature but after they go hunting for it Carolyn and Jimmy both get offed. The captain makes a startling discovery that there is an android replica of Lily on the ship, which is clearly what is controlling the computer.

It's also a lot less cute than the real Lily was.
They all run to the bridge, but Dick succumbs to the infection and turns into a Lovecraftian nightmare. Hiro prepares to kill himself, but the captain reveals that he has a shuttle that they can all escape on. But, sadly, our heroic captain intends to go down with the ship while the younger two survivors escape on the shuttle. He blows up the ship, killing himself and the android cat, while the thrusters from the shuttle finish off the bacterial monster as the two youths descend to the planet below where they'll have to learn to survive on their own like some sort of Blue Lagoon in space.

Except without all the incest.
That's our movie. I hear that there is a twist ending on some copies of the film, but it's missing from mine, likely due to mine being a bootleg copy from before it was readily available on DVD (which it is now). How was the movie? It was quite good. It followed a lot of similar cues from Alien and The Thing, but not so much that it felt like a complete rip-off of those films. If anything it felt almost like a loving tribute to the sci-fi horror film, as it was very much a celebration of the best the medium has to offer.

Paranoia, terror, and running like hell.

The animation is quite impressive, which makes it all the more shocking that this film is relatively untalked about. The English dub (which is all I have access to) isn't bad, often featuring performances that only add to the feeling that you're watching an 1980s sci-fi horror film. The cast of characters were, as I mentioned, quite diverse, but sadly they barely got much time to shine. That's really the sad part with these sorts of films, as they often deliver so many interesting characters but never let us really learn much about them. C'est la vie, yes? Should you check this out? Yes, especially if you love Alien. It has a similarly oppressive atmosphere and the creature definitely comes off as suitably threatening. So, until we get a sequel where Ellen Ripley picks them up on a ship, I'll be here digging through to vault of memory. Later days, bleeders.