Monday, June 4, 2018

The Curse (1987)



* / *****
I guess you could say that once the local doc uses a hammer and spike to chisel open a hole (imagine poking a big pimple), the meteorite begins to ooze its “juices” into the soil (and ultimately into the water supply) and deteriorates. The real estate pussbag wants the doc to keep everything hush-hush so that he doesn’t lose money and the doc’s wife winks that she’ll make sure he does. Meanwhile the meteorite ooze eventually starts to sicken the locals, giving them sores and madness. The doc ends up telling Nathan that the meteorite is more or less frozen plane passenger deposited poop. Wheaton’s Zack doesn’t buy it, but he is seemingly on an island. He’s alone until Schneider eventually arrives, as his Willis also tries to proclaim to anyone that will listen that “something is in the water”. Director Keith makes sure to emphasize the water’s danger when Nathan gets the well going as the crops, livestock, dogs, and his family continues to devour it. Working for the TN Valley Authority, Willis knows that something is wrong as Zack clearly does, but getting others to just listen fails. And if Nathan was already an unlikable, bossy prick, imagine him with the meteorite sickness…just double the wretchedness.

Realtor (and Chamber of Commerce of the town) Charlie immediately (like flies to shit) eyeballs Willis and tries to use his charms to secure any whiff of information regarding a reservoir potential in the land of his area. That possibility is planted by the screenplay to assure our worst fears that the infected water might just spread to many others, not just specifically to this town and its farming land, certainly a “dread of what-if” these films often present as a terrifying idea left for us to gnaw on.

I imagine seeing Akins strike Wheaton over and over for just trying to get the doc to see his mother could be hard for a lot to stomach. At that time it was a bit staggering, but watching it tonight, I damn near turned off the movie. I just don’t have the belly for a monster striking a kid…it is worse when the man’s son adds to it by tripping him. If Keith was building sympathy for the kid, just continuing to lay it on so thick doesn’t exactly promise our loyalties to his film will continue to tolerate such bullshit.

And it just continues to get better. Nathan considers his livestock’s turning on Zack’s sister during her feeding of them and the infected cows’ belly sores opening to explode worms and beetles in his face as punishment from God for his wife’s sins. She has grown haggard and knife-wielding (as Willis learns when stopping by for a glass of water), so Nathan ties her up to a bed while rocking in a chair proclaiming to himself and her just how awful she was for doing this to them. When she goes at her own son and then him with a fireplace poker, her face (and particularly her forehead) mutated, with mouth spewing puss and goo, Nathan dumps her in the basement to rot for being such a dirty sinner.

And if that all wasn’t just precious, the doc’s wife and Charlie attempt to mosey on over to Nathan’s to have a talk with Francis and him about the land, encountering unhappy dogs, succumbed to the infected water. She is dogbait while Charlie decides to hide in the basement…the absolute worst place to duck and cover. 









Cooper Huckabee, as the doc, has been around also since the 70s Pom Pom Girls, but I know him best from Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse (1981). He, at first, brushes off the concerns of the meteorite, but by film's end he knows the water (after a lab tests it) is contaminated and Nathan's family has come unglued. Trying to save the day by entering Nathan's domain (the sores and madness now truly overcome him and his son as well) is his own undoing, crowbar in hand or not.


Obviously, for most, the best scenes involve Zack getting some revenge and allowed hero status finally by keeping his sister safe through feeding her from non-contaminated water and food, taking a bat to his stepbrother, and kneeing Nathan in the crotch. Too bad the model house Director Keith has destroyed by the underground instability due to the meteorite doesn’t ultimately fare so well. Willis arrives in the nick to help Zack and his sister get out of the house and away from Nathan. Nathan might have hammered the doc in the skull, but he gets his comeuppance when Willis pitchforks him in the back. Nothing inside the house escapes the wrath of the unstable ground, exploding all over the place. This seemed to be the ideal time for Director Keith to unleash lots of effects. Patently absurd is Zack going for his mother when it was clear she was long gone never to return. Her opening up Charlie’s chest was enough evidence of that, although Nathan concealed that from him. Although I love good melting effects, her death this way just further encouraged the nodding heads of disbelief. Turning into green goo right before her son’s eyes: quite a sendoff. Even more absurd is stepbrother’s fall from a story to the floor, bleeding out from a head wound, and yet able to grab Zack’s leg as he tries to flee the collapsing structure…the final thirty minutes just send the film into the doldrums never to return. And Keith just couldn’t let Wheaton fully escape without a couple more swinging slaps across the chops from dear ole pitchfork-stabbed Akins…nope, couldn’t do that. 





This had the distinction of being one of the remaining films I would watch with my late uncle, arriving at his home when he was in the middle of it during 2010. After this viewing, I just don’t see myself ever suffering through it again. I did notice, seemingly oblivious to this for some reason many times before, that several Italian filmmaking names were involved such as Ovidio G Assontis and Lucio Fulci, and the crew has several from that country involved in the film. The music and look do remind me of Italian horror films of that time. There were plenty of startlingly bizarro films coming out of Italy during the 80s, so The Curse having employed them also kind of makes sense regarding the quality of David Keith’s production, especially in the chaotic ending. The film’s off-the-rails conclusion, where the authorities try to comfort the public with glowing news of Willis’ recovery and the water contamination being fixed while the ground all around Nathan’s place is  breaking open goo, might just be embraced for its very rancidness…I’m not of that number. Wheaton had just been in one of the best films of the 80s, trapped in one of the decade’s worst…how the scales don’t always balance in ways hoped for or even perhaps expected. Good news was that after this he would star in Star Trek: The Next Generation. But the seasons he really involved aren’t all that spectacular until the show entered its third season, so even that took some time.


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