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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

The Curse/
Curse II: The Bite

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Films
    The Curse (1987)
    2.5 Stars
    Curse II: The Bite (1989)
    3 Stars
(Release Date: February 23, 2015) – Two goopily effective cult horror titles from the late-1980s make their Blu-ray premiere courtesy of Scream Factory's welcome double-feature release.

In 1987's "The Curse" (loosely based on the uncredited H.P. Lovecraft story "The Color Out of Space"), God-fearing farmer Nathan Crane (Claude Akins) and his family begin to physically and mentally transform after a meteor lands on their property, tainting their food and water. As teenage stepson Zack (Wil Wheaton, carelessly misbilled in the opening and ending credits as Will Wheaton) watches as beloved mother Frances (Kathleen Jordon Gregory) loses her mind, he desperately seeks the aid of local doctor Willis (John Schneider). Alas, there is only so much they can do when the iron-fisted Nathan continues to deny anything is wrong. "The Curse" has all the hallmarks of being made by a novice filmmaker (the movie was the directorial debut of actor David Keith), from spotty acting, to occasionally stilted dialogue, to post-production tinkering that forgets completely about a pivotal character (a farmhand with whom Frances is caught having an affair). Fortunately, "The Curse" works in spite of its troubles, a creeping paranoia enveloping Zack and younger sister Amy (Wil's real-life sister Amy Wheaton) as the rest of their family take monstrous turns. The film has a high, maggot-filled ick factor and plenty of unsettling make-up effects, turning Zack's trapped existence in the rural Tennessee town of Tellico Plains into a waking nightmare.

The in-name-only 1989 sequel "Curse II: The Bite" may have been retitled to capitalize on the original, but it wholly stands on its own—and, in most ways, surpasses it. The sole writing-directing credit attributed to Frederico Prosperi, this squirmy, riveting thriller sends vivacious young couple Clark (J. Eddie Peck) and Lisa (Jill Schoelen) on a hellish cross-country road trip when the former is bitten by a poisonous, radioactive snake. As Clark's personality begins to change, his infected hand gradually mutates into a deadly reptile. The plot is batshit crazy, but "Curse II: The Bite" is genuinely creepy. J. Eddie Peck and underrated scream queen of the '80s and early-'90s Jill Schoelen are likable at the onset as Clark and Lisa, which only makes their doomed romance all the more involving. Director Prosperi and special effects wizard Screaming Mad George pull out all the stops during the second half, leading toward a snaky, hellish, rainswept climax boasting tension, creative innovation, and true showmanship.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound
The Curse: A-/B+
Curse II: The Bite: B/B+

The 1080p transfer for "The Curse" is in surprisingly good condition. There are minor hints of age-related specks and scratches, but these are few and far between. The image holds notable clarity, colors look accurate and fresh, and detail seen in facial features and in the make-up effects is nicely textured. "Curse II: The Bite" opens with a disclaimer explaining a film print was used for this home-video transfer, as original film elements were not found. Kudos to Scream Factory for being up-front and honest about this not-optimal circumstance, though—truth be told—most viewers likely wouldn't have noticed. While there is a slight softness to certain scenes and the appearance of sparse but apparent cigarette burns are dead giveaways to the source material, this is still unmistakably a high-definition transfer and far better than the movie ever looked on DVD or VHS. The added detail and clarity is indispensable in highlighting Screaming Mad George's superb special effects work. Both films come with 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and they are satisfying and workmanlike. Music comes through clearly, while dialogue is evenly dispersed within the mix.

Blu-ray Features
  The Curse
  • Trailer (1:42, HD)
  Curse II: The Bite
  • None
Bottom Line
Scream Factory checks two more coveted titles off the "most wanted" lists of '80s-loving horror enthusiasts with their eagerly awaited double feature of "The Curse" and "Curse II: The Bite." Barebone affairs though these are, the improved picture and sound quality and the novelty of having these films on the superior Blu-ray format make them well worth the upgrade. Fans who haven't seen these movies since the days of VHS—and interested consumers who have never seen them—will be in for a treat once they get a load of their top-notch effects work in high-def, particularly in regard to "Curse II: The Bite." Recommended.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

[Blu-ray Review] Cursed Films (2020)

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