THE CURSE: Down-Home Lovecraft?

Once Re-Animator became a worldwide success, horror film producers were reawakened to the cinematic potential of H.P. Lovecraft. His tales have an international fanbase and, even better, most of them are in the public domain. That said, few were as successful as the Dennis Paoli/Stuart Gordon adaptations because it is a challenge to capture a Lovecraftian mood on film. For proof, just look at The Curse: a Lovecraft adaptation that was a modest success but has made many Lovecraft fans mad with its attempts to transform the author’s work into ’80s horror fodder.

Curse-01The Curse was adapted from “The Colour Out Of Space,” the same tale that previously inspired Die Monster Die. David Chaskin’s script retains a lot of the events from the Lovecraft tale as it sets up the story of a farming family whose lives are turned upside down when a mysterious meteor hits their acreage. It releases a strange goo that makes the vegetation fast-growing but inedible and drives the livestock murderously mad. When the contagion spreads to matriarch Frances (Kathleen Jordon Gregory), her son Zack (Wil Wheaton) tries to get help but gets trouble from his religious nut stepdad Nathan (Claude Akins) and his bully of a son Cyrus (Malcolm Danare). Town doctor Forbes (Cooper Huckabee) tries to help but the outer space menace is unpredictable.

The Curse has a certain following because it hits the basic marks of an ’80s horror movie: there are a lot of gooey (if not gory) FX setpieces, slasher-esque moments with killers driven insane by space goo and a finale full of scuffles and large-scale destruction. However, it never captures the otherworldly creepiness of a Lovecraft story: moving it from New England to the South means David Chaskin’s script undercuts the horror with a lot of broad, clichéd stereotype characters and an unfortunate Curse1&2-blufondness for cornpone humor.

The direction by erstwhile actor David Keith doesn’t help things. He plays up the crude humor of the script and encourages the cast to give campy, overwrought performances: Danare, who was good as a bully in Christine, gives a particularly overripe performance as a low-comedy dope of a bully and Steve Carlisle is memorably bad as a town bigwig who seems to have wandered in from a Smokey And The Bandit sequel. Cinematographer Roberto Forges Davanzati tries to bring some atmosphere to the film’s look but Keith has no knack for staging effective horror sequences and the clubfooted shocks just up the camp factor.

As a result, The Curse feels nothing like a Lovecraft adaptation despite retaining much of the original short story. Fans of the author are better off watching Die Monster Die: whatever that film’s issues, it’s more genuinely Lovecraftian than this southern-fried oddity.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory just issued this title on blu-ray as part of a double-bill disc with Curse II: The Bite. The MGM-sourced transfer preserves the film’s original Cinemascope imagery and does so with nice levels of color and detail. The original mono mix is presented in lossless form and sounds nice and clear. The one extra for this film is the original trailer but as stated above, you also get its unofficial, memorably odd sequel.

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