Tom Hooper’s “Cats” is harrowing even if you’re sober. An unholy, digital-fur-coated dive into the uncanny valley, set in a London made to look like a New Orleans red-light district, the movie boasts plenty of disturbing visuals: it’s a sexless world where the cats have no genitals, but there are cat breasts, cats thrusting, and little dancing mice and cockroaches with human faces pasted onto them. It’s hard to tell how much of the nearly $55 million the movie has collected globally comes from hate-watching, or from genuine fans of the Andrew Lloyd Webber extravaganza. (The budget, mind you, was more than $95 million, all going to a rushed production that found the film’s visuals still being cooked even after the movie opened wide over the Christmas holiday.)
Well, according to a sweeping new story by The Washington Post, a fraction of that box-office take is coming from audience members who are seeing the movie on drugs, and the results are evidently transcendent. WaPo has rounded up some of the best reactions from viewers that saw the movie on such mind-altering substances as shrooms, LSD, edibles, and more.
That last scene especially, where Judi Dench’s Deuteronomy breaks the fourth wall to address the viewer, freaks people out. A source close to IndieWire who took a small dose of psilocybin mushrooms ahead of a weeknight screening of the film said, “There was no point during the movie at which I did not feel utterly trapped. I could almost feel Jennifer Hudson’s snot on my face,” referring to the actress’ hammy, sniffly performance. “I truly never had any idea what was going on or what the cats were saying or singing.”
Indeed, the movie may be hard to follow if you’re looking for a husk of a plot. Because it isn’t there. Basically all the cats — as portrayed by the likes of Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Hudson, Dench, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, and Taylor Swift — are auditioning for eternal life in the Heaviside Layer, a heaven-like place of rebirth for cats in the upper atmosphere.
“Where their fur ends and their human hands start, it would move in a weird unnatural way,” one audience member told The Washington Post. “I felt like I was losing my mind…I was just concentrating on taking deep breaths.”
Another moviegoer, according to The Washington Post, took a hit of amyl nitrate (i.e. poppers) during a screening in Los Angeles, and said, “It was literally as Jennifer [Hudson] screams out, ‘Touch meeeeee, it’s so easy to leave meeeeeee,’ the poppers for all three of us kicked in…I felt myself hit the Heaviside Layer like Grizabella, the glamour cat.”
While IndieWire does not condone the use of drugs, seeing “Cats” with a little lubrication isn’t ill-advised. And if you’re going to get high for the movie, you might want to do so at one of the Alamo Drafthouse’s “rowdy screenings” of the film, where you’re free to lose your shit however you please.
At the first Los Angeles press screening for the film, distributor Universal Pictures offered an open bar ahead of the movie, as if to assuage audiences who knew they were in for a disaster to just go with it. This writer took full advantage, and it certainly made for a raucous screening, followed by a standing ovation at lights up. But probably not for the right reasons.