The Curse (1987)

*. Fulci goes to the heartland. That is, if you include Tennessee in America’s heartland. In any event, it’s where debut director David Keith’s farm was located, which is where they shot the exteriors for this film.
*. Apparently Lucio Fulci handled the gore, which you wouldn’t need anyone to tell you. The plastered faces and messes of maggots and worms give the game away. As does the music. There’s no mistaking we’re in Fulci territory.
*. The source for the script is an H. P. Lovecraft story, “The Colour Out of Space,” that for some reason has attracted a lot of filmmakers. I think it was first filmed in the ’60s as Die, Monster, Die! There’s a bit more Lovecraft in this one. The idea of the trees moving without any wind comes from the story, for example, as does the fact that the farm is about to be submerged under a reservoir.
*. Aside from that, this film is more Stephen King than Lovecraft: from the way the poison in the groundwater tears the already dysfunctional family apart, to the mocking of the religious wingnut farmer, all the way up to the failed rescue attempt by the doctor and the collapsing house. (And in fact King had actually starred in another movie based on the same story: “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” segment from Creepshow.)
*. Another influence at work is the eco-horror of the ’70s. Think films like Frogs and Prophecy. We’re not dealing with man-made pollution here, but all the same the oozing meteorite might as well have been an airplane turd (which it is originally identified as) or factory runoff.
*. A final connection I’ll make. Watching The Curse I couldn’t help but be reminded of the now classic so-bad-it’s-good Troll 2 (1990). The same plucky kid (Zack here, played by Wil Wheaton) set against his oblivious family. The same motif of the food converting people into monsters. The fully degenerate mother here even looks like one of the trolls.
*. That’s quite a farm Nathan (Claude Akins) is running. He has horses, dairy cattle, chickens, and apple orchards. No wonder he has to spend so much time crunching numbers at the end of the day.
*. When you see a house that’s so obviously a model you know it’s going to be destroyed at the end. Talk about a giveaway.
*. The gore is all pretty dull. The only good bit of business was the mother sewing the sock to her hand, which was a good idea but not very well realized.
*. I mocked the clichéd crashing-through-the-banister scene at the end of Die, Monster, Die! and here it is again at the end of this movie! I wonder if it was meant as a nod to the first go ’round or if it was just laziness. Probably laziness. I mean, they even follow it up with the old swinging-lightbulb effect for good measure.
*. The Curse is a very bad movie, to the point where I had to wonder (as I wondered at Troll 2) whether it was meant as a joke. I don’t think it was, which makes some of it even funnier. The chicken attack, for example, or the muddy cows. That verrrrry slow-moving meteorite was also comic. But, on the other hand, the whole business with the rotten food was effectively disgusting. Not scary, but disgusting. The mother cutting open the cabbage was a highlight.
*. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. It’s very typical of low-budget ’80s horror, which was ugly stuff. It’s not without interest, but I prefer my Fulci neat and the same Lovecraft story has been made into better movies. Today I think this version has been mostly forgotten, for good reason.

2 thoughts on “The Curse (1987)

  1. Tom Moody

    So much of what makes Lovecraft work on the page isn’t filmable. He either holds back details, letting the reader’s imagination run wild, or piles them on, in a manner Graham Harman calls “cubist.” Discussing HPL’s description of Wilbur Whateley’s corpse in “The Dunwich Horror,” Harman writes: “While not exactly beyond the power of vision, the sheer massing of … images overwhelms the reader’s imagination, and a patient artist indeed would be required to depict such a body with even the remotest degree of accuracy.”
    Nevertheless filmmakers keep trying to retell these stories. I haven’t read Lurker in the Lobby but I hope it covers this. The Colour Out of Space is almost all atmosphere and suggestion — no creatures or creepy crawlies, just a dank feeling of dread and the frustration of being ground down by impossible forces. What struck me on a recent re-reading is the extreme stoicism of the Yankee farmer, suffering these torments in stubborn determination to Hang On To His Land. His whole family is sacrificed for this devotion to property and a known order. That’s horror, to me.
    I hope you’ll be discussing the 2010 German version. I’m curious to get your thoughts on it.

    1. Alex Good Post author

      I think Lovecraft could work on film by way of being more suggestive and use of a more indirect approach, but that rarely happens. Decent Lovecraft adaptations are few and far between, and they tend to just use the stories as springboards to go in totally different directions. I think Re-Animator is generally considered to be one of the best, but it has little to do with Lovecraft’s Herbert West story.

      Yes, I’ll be adding my notes on the German version in the coming days. I’m in the middle of posting notes on a bunch of adaptations of The Colour Out of Space. I’m covering five in total, with Die, Monster, Die! and The Curse being the first two.

      I did think Die Farbe was the best of the bunch.


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