Tuesday, February 16, 2016

THE CURSE (1987) / CURSE II: THE BITE (1989) (Blu-ray Review)

THE CURSE (1987) / CURSE II: THE BITE (1989) 

THE CURSE (1987) 

Label: Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Duration: 90 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: David Keith 
Cast: Wil Wheaton, Amy Wheaton, Claude Akins, Cooper Huckabee, John Schneider, Malcolm Danare

Synopsis: Life on the family dairy farm is difficult for young Zach Hayes (Wil Wheaton, Stand by Me): hard work, long hours and the normal family squabbles. But after an ice-blue meteor plunges through the midnight sky and lands on their property, it gets worse. Zach and the local doctor discover that something inside the meteor is infecting every living thing on the farm. Fruits, which look perfect on the outside are teeming with worms… and Zach's family is beginning to change… hideously! This shocker is directed by actor David Keith (Firestarter, White of the Eye) and co-stars Claude Akins (Tentacles), Malcolm Danare (Christine), Cooper Huckabee (The Funhouse) and John Schneider (Smallville).

The Curse (1987) is an '80s adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space directed by actor David Keith (White of the Eye), the movie takes place on a small farm in a rural area of Tennesee. When a white-hot meteor lands on a farm it melts away, leeching its cosmic properties into the ground water supply and causing all sorts of havoc for the residents of the small community.  Actor Claude Akins (Rio Bravo) plays farmer Nathan Crane, a strict religious-nut whose affection-starved wife Frances (Kathleen Jordon Gregory) is a horny adulterer. His oldest son Cyrus (Malcolm Danare) is a mean bully, and his youngest son Zack (Wil Wheaton) seems to be the only decent one among the bunch, and the subject of Cyrus's relentless bullying.

What we have here is an environmental horror movie, just replace the 80's standard culprit of toxic waste with the ill effects of a meteor from outer space and you have a pretty good idea what you might be ins tore for here. At first the contaminated ground water leads to a bumper crop of fruits and veggies for farmer Crane, which is good, as they're on the verge losing the farm to the bank. This unexpected crop would seem to indicate his financial woes have come to an end, but while the contaminated crops looking robust and tasty, they are flavorless and rotten on the inside, the delicious red apples from the orchard are loaded with meal worms. 

As the Crane's drink the contaminated water they are affected physically and mentally by it, with the father becoming more abusive, while mother Crane begins to lose her mind, with boils appearing on her face. Young Zach notices the water tastes funny early on and refuses to drink it, further upsetting his father who is already stressed with the future of the farm and his cheating wife on his mind. The animals in the area are also affected by the contaminated water, which gives the movie a nice when-animals-attack flavor at times. 

There's also a thread about a crooked realtor named Charlie Davidson (Steve Carlisle) who is in league with a local doctor named Alan Forbes (Cooper Huckabee), both are aware of a plan by the state to build a dam in the area, together they set about buying as much property as they can in the area to profit from the dam-building project, with one of the sole holdouts being Nathan Crane who steadfastly refuses to sell his farm. A representative from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is played by Tom Schenider of Smallville, who I did not recognize at first, those eye glasses really nerd him up a bit, it worked for Superman, too. He plays the hero of the movie, and is one of the first to recognize that something has contaminated the water supply, and to notice the ill effects on the community. 

The movie was directed by actor David Keith who you might remember from starring roles in Firestarter and white of the Eye, and this is the first of just three movies he directed. This is not a great movie, not straight-up awful but on the lower end of good. The movie was produced by a man who knew a thing or two about b-movies, Ovidio G. Assonitis directed Tentacles and The Exorcist rip-off Beyond the Door, according to legend Eurocult icon Lucio Fulci shot some second unit on the movie and may have created some of the optical effects in the movie, not sure of the validity of that info, but some of the special effects are pretty gross, rotting fruit and vegetables has always grossed me out. As a teen I worked in the produce department of a grocery store, one day I was restocking oranges when I put my finger through the rotten flesh of a green-blue molded orange, it was so gross. I'd rather handle the bloodied remains of fresh roadkill, but maybe I am just weird that way. Anyway, a scene of a maggot-spewing cow corpse feels like pure Lucio Fulci. 

The Curse was a decent watch, but not a great one, the story is overly convoluted and the pay-off is not spectacular. half the fun for me was spotting actors like a young Wil Wheaton from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Clause Akins from Rio Bravo, and John Schenider from The Dukes of Hazard - none of whom do great work in my opinion, but it was fun to see Akins play such a mean-spirited cuss. As adaptations of the source material go, I don't think we;ve seen a great one yet, but I do have a fondness for the technicolor horror of Die Monster Die (1969) starring Boris Karloff, which strays quite a bit from the source, but I love it. 


Label: Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Duration: 97 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Fred Goodwin 
Cast: Bo Svenson, Sydney Lassick, J. Eddie Peck, Jamie Farr, Jill Schoelen, Shiri Appleby, Savina Gersak

Synopsis: Two young lovers, Clark (J. Eddie Peck, Kyle XY) and Lisa (Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather), traveling through the desert unwittingly pass through an abandoned nuclear test site which has become a breeding ground for deadly mutant killer snakes. When Clark is bitten, he undergoes a grotesque transformation into a hideous snake monster! This chiller filled with slithering horror also stars Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H), Shiri Appleby (Roswell) and Bo Svenson (Walking Tall Part II).

The second half of this double-feature is Curse II: The Bite which came a few years later and has nothing at all to do with the original movie, this is a pure cash-in retitling. This one concerns a young couple driving across country to California, we have Clark (J. Eddie Peck) and his girlfriend Lisa (Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather), a nice '80s couple, and Schoelen is easy on the eyes. 

While crossing the desert the couple encounter a massive horde of snakes covering the road, the couple drive straight through it, but along along the way a mutated snake slithers into the back of their Jeep, where it later bites Clark on the hand. They seek treatment from a sketchy doctor at a nearby motel, the doctor is played by none other than Jamie Farr, Clinger from M.A.S.H.! They bandage up the hand and continue their journey West, but Clark begins to become more aggressive, and it turns out that what is happening is that the snake bite has caused his hand to tun into a snake, which sounds cheesy ...and it is, but it's not played for laughs, this is serious hand-snake stuff.

There's a surprising amount of decent gore in the movie, a lot of it done by scream Mad George, the diabolical make-up effects genius behind Brian Yuzna's Bride of Re-Animator and Society. First we have a mutated dog who has been bitten by a snake, which is grotesque, I was a bit upset that this scene was overly dark, it was hard to make it out. Later scenes of Clark's hand attacking people against his will are better resolved, the final sequences of him chasing Lisa trough a construction site are damn good, fans of icky body horror are in for quite a treat. 

There's also a fun cast of minor character that make this a fun watch, we have the aforementioned Jamie Farr, plus Sydney Lassick from The Unseen, I love that guy, always playing sightly fey weirdos. Bo Svenson also makes an appearance as the sheriff.  There's also a strange thread having to do with a cast of shady trucker characters, including the horny Big Flo played by Marianne Muellerleile. 

Audio/Video: The Curse and Curse II: The Bite arrive on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in their original scope aspect ratio (2.35:1) looking good with some nicely managed film grain. Colors are nicely robust, and the black levels are adequate for the most part. Scream Factory have indicated that the only source for the HD transfer fr Curse II was an actual film print, and while it does fall short in a few areas,all things considered the A/V presentation met my expectations. I wasn't expecting a collector's edition A/V presentation for either of these movie to be honest. Both films sport an English language DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 audio tracks with optional English subtitles. Not the most dynamic audio presentation for either, but they are clean, crisp and nicely balanced.  The only extras on the set is a 2-minute theatrical trailer for The Curse presented in standard definition. 

What we have here is another fun b-movie double-feature from the '80s that is sure to please fans of either movie, though I wish we could have had a few interviews or commentaries from any of the major participants. Some trivia for you, this is not the first of the Curse films to be released on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, Director David Schmoeller's Catacombs (1988) holds that distinction, when that film was released on home video in the '90s it was marketed as Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice (1988), which like the other Curse entries have absolutely nothing to do with the original film.