Ashley (Kara Elverson) and Lisa (Starsha Gill) are best friends and roommates, going about their lives just like anyone else until one day a mishap with Lisa’s laptop reveals a look into an alternate dimension. Intrigued by the idea of being able to see video footage of alternate realities via computer, or listening to alternate dimension audio via playing music a certain way, the two friends eventually come across a website that lets the viewer cycle through different dimensions and realities in the same way that one would flip through TV channels.
Despite warnings from the outset, the pair start watching different version of themselves in alternate realities, and the two become increasingly obsessed with what they’re seeing. Ashley becomes fixated on a reality where she’s in a steady relationship and Lisa focuses on one where she is a mother. The more the two watch, however, the more lost they become in their real lives and the different realities begin to affect one another.
I have to admit, at first filmmaker Lisa Duva’s Cat Scratch Fever had me lost. The idea of alternate dimensions and realities is brought up and discussed so nonchalantly at first that I wondered if I’d missed something more explanatory prior. I didn’t, but the trick became to put the science part of the brain aside for a little bit, and not try to figure out how what I was watching could be happening and just accept that it is, and how does that make me feel?
Honestly, as much as this does have the novelty of alternate realities to work with, it works on such a strong level regarding how people can obsess about things outside their lives, until that obsession becomes their lives, that it doesn’t need that hook. Still, utilizing that more fantastical perspective allows more universal messages to get across. I mean, sure, this could be a straightforward satire about reality TV, or any obsession where people put their lives on hold and raise alternate lives above their own (rock stars, celebrities, etc), but by making the self, even alternate versions of the self, the main obsession, it also becomes a study on identity.
Cat Scratch Fever has elements of mindfuckery, but it’s actually a very straightforward production with few locations and a small cast. The usage of such a claustrophobic apartment environment, as the friends become increasingly more hermit-like as they watch their alter-lives play out, actually winds up affecting the audience too, as we become trapped in their obsession with them. Fortunately for us, the film ends and we can walk away relatively unscathed by what we’ve seen, breaking the loop. Then again, when we sit down and start flipping through out TV stations, what new loops are we introducing, and which old ones are we indulging in?
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