Few filmmakers had a more direct line to the viewer’s gag reflex than the late Lucio Fulci, who spent his entire career devising new ways to show people being taken apart. A Cat in the Brain (1990) may not be Fulci’s defining work—that most likely remains the Lovecraftian brain muncher The Beyond (1981)—but it may well be his most interesting. An ersatz with chain saws, it takes a deeply ambivalent look at the director’s films and methods, without skimping on any of the grody stuff that made him famous. Warning: The title is not just a metaphor.

Fulci plays, well, himself, a legendary Italian horror director tormented when the line between his film sets and reality begins bloodily breaking down. The resulting carnage is both blackly hilarious—avoid the steak tartare—and intriguingly reflexive.

Like many exploitation moviemakers, Fulci can be tough to recommend, both because of the ridiculous levels of violence—largely against women—in his films and his generally slapdash approach towards anything not directly splatter related. The absorbingly meta A Cat in the Brain, however, suggests a man largely aware of his shortcomings, in a way that may hold an interest even for non-gorehounds.

For those with the appropriate constitutions, a scene like the one where the director feverishly recounts all the different ways that people have died in his movies, followed by a shot of his own fiendishly quivering gray matter, may even fit the qualifications of art. Art of a most peculiar sort, but still. recommended