Year 1987
Studio Trans World
Producer

Ovidio G. Assonitus

Lucio Fulci

Director David Keith
Writer David Chaskin
Music music
Cast

Claude Akins

Wil Wheaton

Franco Micalizzi

Length 92 mins

     
The Curse

‘‘ Good God! What eldritch dream-world was this into which he had blundered? ’’

Putrid cabbage, wormy apples, carnivorous chickens, and cows spewing maggots. This film has it all—everything except good dialog, believable acting, and a cohesive plot. Welcome to the latest feature-film treatment of "The Colour out of Space," a disappointing miasma of redneck angst.

As in Lovecraft's story, the film tells the tale of a glowing meteorite and a planned reservoir in the backwoods. But instead of "west of Arkham (where) the hills rise wild," first-time director David Keith sets the film in a small Tennessee town called Tellico Plains.

Lovecraft's Gardners have become the Cranes, led by Bible-thumping patriarch Nathan—played by country crooner Claude Akins. Will Wheaton (infamous as Star Trek's Wesley Crusher) plays Zach, Nathan's step-son who's been feeling, um . . . crushed by step-dad's fundamentalism. Frances, Zach's mother, is also frustrated by Nathan, but her complaint concerns "not gettin' any," prompting her to take a roll in the hay with a very hairy farmhand.

Unfortunately for Frances, the timing of the tryst couldn't be worse. A storm descends on the Crane farm and so does one big-ass meteorite, rousing Nathan from a deep sleep to find his satisfied wife stealing out of the farmhand's love shack.

Zach, our young hero, is the first to find the glowing and membranous meteorite. His politically correct neighbor, Dr. Alan Forbes, wants to call in the Environmental Protection Agency but is talked out of it by a real-estate con-man named Charley Davidson, who is trying to buy the Crane farm.

Charley doesn't want to worry the authorities about the space-rock's possible environmental impact and instead convinces the doctor to study the meteorite—because once you're a doctor of anything, you're qualified to study everything! As in "The Colour out of Space," the rock shrinks overnight and Forbes theorizes it's because the space pebble is mostly composed of escaping carbon dioxide. Observant Zach begs to differ. Paraphrasing the original story, he tells Forbes that the rock glowed during the night and, even though there was no wind, all the trees around it were moving.

Lovecraft was a bit more explicit, writing that the trees:

"were twitching morbidly and spasmodically, clawing in convulsive and epileptic madness at the moonlit clouds; scratching impotently in the noxious air as if jerked by some alien and bodiless line of linkage with subterrene horrors writhing and struggling below the black roots."

That night, a roused Zach witnesses the last glow of the meteorite as it melts and oozes into the soil. Thoughtful Zach thinks to himself, "hmmm . . . I wonder if it's going to get into the ground water?" This plot point is quickly brushed under the rug as Charley bribes the Doctor to concoct a story about the meteorite being nothing more sinister than a frozen lump of lavatory waste dumped from a passing airliner—"airplane doo-doo" as Cyrus, Zach's obese and very annoying step-brother, puts it. But it's no earthly doo-doo seeping into the water table. It's a very nasty alien substance that quickly contaminates the farm's well, crops, and livestock.

Frances notices the effects when she sees cabbages and tomatoes grown to Lovecraft's "phenomenal size and unwonted gloss." A harvest that looks nice and crispy outside, but is rotten and nasty on the inside, stuffed with a terrible viscous fluid that makes her sick to her stomach.

Suspicious Zach thinks, "Hey, I wonder if the food has been corrupted by the tainted water?" Lovecraft wrote, "It had an evil taste that was not exactly foetid nor exactly salty." But it is exactly evil.

Insightful Zach refuses to drink the water and eat the farm food, but everyone else does and one by one the Cranes begin to mutate. Mother Crane is the first to go, her madness epitomized in a scene were she slowly darns one of Nathan's stinky socks onto her hand. Stepbrother Cyrus is next, a pitiful weight-challenged redneck gone bad.

Nathan thinks the madness is divine retribution for Frances having looked for love in all the wrong places and locks the poor woman in the cellar. But the tainted water does not discriminate and eventually works its way through him as well, bringing out his inner beast: a demon designed by the film's associate producer, infamous horror director (and marginal Lovecraft adapter) Lucio Fulci.

Meanwhile, Doctor Forbes finally notices the weirdness on the Crane farm and decides to get the water tested. An excited government scientist quickly informs him, "It's alternating the molecular structure of the water!"

Duh!

Everything on the farm (except for cautious Zach and his little sister, who have been consuming their own survival rations) knows this first hand, having de-evolved into some pretty horrible beasts. Their mutations culminate in a gory climax where the very house becomes infected and rips itself apart, board by board.

Why the farmhouse commits suicide is not really made clear, but then again much of the film's editing does not make sense. The doctor's explanation is as good as any when, in the beginning of the film, he's dragged away by the police (we never do find out what for) screaming: "It's in the water!"

It may have been in the water, but we highly doubt that any of this nuttiness was in Lovecraft's mind back in March of 1927 when he wrote the tale this noxious paste is rendered down from. As for why the film is called The Curse—well that, at least, is obvious. The film itself is a curse, and it continues to visit its horror upon us afresh every couple of years in a string of sequels that we'll quickly dispatch below.