October 3rd, 2011
|09:52 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: The Curse|
...or, The Crusher Out of Space.
The Curse is an infamously bad movie from 1987 starring Wil Wheaton as the smart kid in a family of rednecks.
More importantly, it's an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space," which is why I'd wanted to watch it, and the best way for me to describe the movie is probably to start with the original story, which you can read right here.
"The Colour Out of Space" takes place on a small farm outside of Arkham, MA where a meteorite lands and dissolves into the soil, contaminating the water, the crops, and eventually the cattle. Everything that's contaminated takes on a color that nobody's seen before. Actually, "color" is only an analogy -- it's so weird and alien that nobody can figure out exactly how to describe what's going on. At any rate, the crops are tasteless and inedible, and the animals are simply falling apart, and pretty soon the Gardener family starts to be affected. At the end everybody dies, and everything is ruined. It's incredibly bleak.
It's also incredibly well-executed and incredibly popular, and that single paragraph doesn't do it justice. Lovecraft counted it among his best stories, and a survey of diehard Lovecraftians would probably name "Colour" as the fan favorite. And it knocks people's socks off because it's science fiction, but it's so different from the other sci-fi that was being written at the time.
So anyway, I've heard nothing but bad stuff about The Curse, so I went into it with low expectations, and instead it turned out to be pretty entertaining. Wil Wheaton and his sister Amy play Zack and Alice Hayes, two kids who live on a farm in rural Tennessee with their mother Frances, her second husband Nathan, and his son Cyrus. Nathan is a religious zealout who looks like a televangelist or a sheriff from a '50s western, and Cyrus is a bully who needs to get punched. They make Zack's life difficult. Then one night a meteorite the size of a minivan comes streaking out of the sky and lands in the field at 2:00 AM. My imperfect understanding of meteorites is that an impact of that type would probably wipe out everybody who matters and then some, but that doesn't happen here. Instead, they gather around it and find it quite cold. A few days later it has completely melted, and the local doctor theorizes that an airliner emptied its toilets above the farm, the waste froze and solidified on the way down, and has finally simply melted. Which would explain why the metorite didn't cause a solar deprivation event, but doesn't explain why nobody cares that the ground water that they're drinking is suddenly full of fecal matter and chemicals. Seriously. The conversation ends about like this: "Well, I guess that explains where the meteor went. Have some more water, kid."
The crops start growing beautifully but they turn out to be full of blue and yellow tempra paint. Meanwhile, Frances is growing giant warts and going funny in the head. And also, some guy from the Tennessee Valley Authority is creeping around with the local realtor who's trying to talk everyone into selling their property. Everything culminates in a confrontation between Zack, Alice, the TVA guy, and the rest of the Hayes family who are all contaminated space zombies by now -- except for Frances who is melting in the basement. Or was it the attic? Look, you don't really care, do you?
Anyway, it's bad but it's fun. The screenplay leans a tad too hard on the country bumpkin angle and comes out looking a little like a particularly grim episode of Hee Haw, but all in all, the Lovecraft story is given more regard than you'd expect. It's a cheap movie but the credits claim Lucio Fulci (another giallo guy) as associate producer, so the production values are as good as possible on a low budget. The special effects are particularly uh, effective, mostly because they rely on honest-to-gosh maggots and meat. Unpleasant. Nobody in this movie is famous, other than Wil Wheaton. I got excited when I saw that it was directed by David Keith, until I realized that I was thinking of Keith David. Who the hell is David Keith? I don't know, either.
There are other, better versions of "The Colour Out of Space:" Die, Monster, Die!, Colour from the Dark, and the German Die Farbe, but The Curse is the only one starring Wil Wheaton. You can almost see him deciding to forsake acting in favor of journalism and Linux advocacy.
I'm kidding, it's not that bad. Trailer.