Curse2-02If an inde­pen­dent gen­re title was a suc­cess on home video dur­ing the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, it was vir­tu­al­ly guar­an­teed that you would see more films bear­ing that title as long as the mar­ket per­mit­ted it. That said, home video sequels were allowed to play things in a more fast-and-loose style than their big screen coun­ter­parts. Sometimes, the sequels would have noth­ing to do with each oth­er besides using the same mar­ketable title. Look no fur­ther than the series of Curse hor­ror films from the end of the 80’s. There were four of them and each one had a dif­fer­ent cast, direc­tor and sto­ry­line.

Curse II: The Bite is per­haps the most inter­est­ing and unusu­al of this unof­fi­cial tril­o­gy. Originally just titled The Bite, it was reti­tled for its home video release because the first, H.P. Lovecraft-derived Curse did well on the VHS cir­cuit.

That said, Curse II’s sto­ry ditch­es any trace of Lovecraft in favor of a real­ly weird atom­ic mon­ster tale. Clark (J. Eddie Peck) is trav­el­ing through the desert with his sweet­heart Lisa (Jill Schoelen) when he decides to take a short­cut. He pass­es through a mil­i­tary atom­ic test­ing site that is full of irridi­at­ed snakes and gets bit­ten by one. A trav­el­ing sales­man (Jamie Farr!) tries to help and a gruff sher­iff (Bo Svenson) begins to chase the roman­tic duo but Clark is expe­ri­enc­ing a muta­tion that’s going to result in a lot of dead bod­ies before the cred­its roll.

First things first: Curse II: TCurse2-01he Bite is more strange than it is good. It was made by Italian film­mak­ers — cred­it­ed direc­tor “Fred Goodwin” is actu­al­ly Federico Prosperi — and has a fas­ci­nat­ing­ly odd cast of char­ac­ter actors seem­ing­ly cho­sen at ran­dom. The tone veers all over the map, from hor­ror to trag­ic romance to low-road com­e­dy.

It’s pop­u­lat­ed with odd sup­port­ing char­ac­ters: for instance, Farr’s char­ac­ter is an ex-Brooklynite trav­el­ing sales­man who is also a self-taught expert on snakes (?) and the third act fea­tures a fam­i­ly of immi­grant evan­gel­i­cal Christians who sound just like Tim Conway’s “Mr. Tudball” char­ac­ter from The Carol Burnett Show. The pac­ing is sim­i­lar­ly errat­ic, with an odd­ly episod­ic mix of sub­plots spiced up by occa­sion­al scare set­pieces.

Curse1&2-bluHowever, the results are eccen­tric enough to be com­pelling even when Curse II: The Bite fails to work in con­ven­tion­al terms. Scream queen Schoelen is sad­dled with the most irri­tat­ing char­ac­ter she ever played but the genial pres­ence of Farr makes up for it and Svenson does his “men­ac­ing crack­er” schtick with cool effec­tive­ness (odd­ly, he wears a band-aid on his nose through­out the film). Peck gives his all as the mutat­ing hero and is aid­ed immense­ly by some show-stop­ping make­up FX by Screaming Mad George: the final sce­nes involve some pros­thet­ic weird­ness that evokes the 1982 ver­sion of The Thing. Prosperi gives the pro­ceed­ings an offhand sense of style that is aid­ed nice­ly by crisp ‘scope-for­mat lens­ing by Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli.

In short, Curse II: The Bite is more inter­est­ing as an odd­i­ty than it is as a hor­ror film — but col­lec­tors of cel­lu­loid odd­i­ties will find plen­ty of intrigu­ing quirks tucked away in this non-sequel sequel.

Blu-Ray Notes: This title was recent­ly released by Scream Factory as part of a dou­ble-fea­ture blu-ray with the orig­i­nal The Curse. A title card before the main attrac­tion warns that the trans­fer was tak­en from a film print that was the only avail­able source but the results look pret­ty good nonethe­less. The loss­less mono sound­track is free of dis­tor­tion or defects. There are no extras but as stat­ed above, you do get this film’s pre­de­ces­sor on the same disc.