DirectorDavid Keith/Fred Goodwin
Release Date(s)1987/1989 (February 23, 2016)
Studio(s)Trans World Entertainment/Orion Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: D-
One could write a book on the number of Italian horror movies and sequels that were released throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s (and probably has already). It can get a bit confusing, especially when you try to match up sequels to each other. For example, Dawn of the Dead in Italy is called simply Zombi, but Zombi 2 in the U.S. is simply called Zombie – and that’s only a mild example. Thankfully, the people at Trans World Entertainment kept that in mind when they released their Curse movies, which are The Curse Curse II: The Bite Curse III: Blood Sacrifice, and Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice. Unfortunately, they didn’t make sure that they had something to do with each other.
It begins with The Curse. An adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space”, it tells the story of a religious farming family who, after exposure to a crashed meteorite that leaks an alien fluid into the water supply, becomes increasingly strange, to the point of going crazy and trying to kill each other. It continues with Curse II: The Bite, in which a young man is bitten by a radioactive snake, which in turn, slowly turns him into a snake. The Curse featured a young Wil Wheaton, Claude Akins, Malcolm Danare, and John Schneider, and was directed by David Keith with a screenplay by David Chaskin (of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge). Curse II: The Bite was directed by Frederico Prosperi (under the pseudonym of Fred Goodwyn) and features Jill Schoelen (who has a horror pedigree with the Robert Englund version of The Phantom of the Opera, Popcorn, and The Stepfather), as well as the odd supporting cast of Jamie Farr and Bo Svenson.
I’ll make this abundantly clear before going any further: I disliked both of the movies... and I actually outright hated the second one. Both of them have their fair share of interesting special effects (including gore effects in the second by Lucio Fulci, who also served as the co-producer), and the first movie is fairly-well filmed, but there was far too much for me to dislike. The Curse doesn’t know which kind of tone to follow through with on, what feels like, an incomplete story. There’s only one character with any dimension, and even she only gets to play it briefly. The movie is also not a superbly well-acted movie and filled with lots of unnecessary scenes. It also feels overly long with a score that seems like it’s desperately trying to replicate a John Carpenter score, and is filled with despicable characters, one worse than the next.
And that is never more apparent that in the sequel Curse II: The Bite, which is basically a movie called The Bite with Curse II slapped onto it by the distributor as it has nothing to do with the previous or following movies in the series. It’s a movie that spent most of its running time actively trying to piss me off with its horrible story and shitty characters, especially anyone that might have a beef with the protagonists. I cordially dislike movies in which asshole characters who have to be assholes are assholes because the script needs them to be assholes, especially when they’re from the south or they’re police officers. It never sits well with me, and that one-dimensionality never lets up throughout the movie. Characters do things that make no sense, say things that make no sense, and act in ways that make no sense.
All of this is a shame too. I’ve mentioned in other places that when I was growing up, I visited the video store often, and both of these movies were on the wall whenever I would go. I never actually rented them and, consequently, I’ve always wondered what they actually were. Usually those kinds of movies, the ones that I discover later, tend to be somewhere between mediocre to enjoyable. This time around though, they made me aggressively hate them, and I don’t like feeling that way while I’m watching movies. I’m glad that they’re not in obscurity for genre fans, especially since this is the first time that they’ve actually had a Blu-ray release, but it’s safe to say that I won’t feel the need to revisit them in the future.
It’s also worth noting that I don’t have MGM’s previous DVD release of Curse II: The Bite to compare to, as that was purportedly the full unrated version of the movie. However, judging by the carnage, the version found on this release must be the unrated version, as opposed to the R rating toted on the wrap-around artwork.
One thing’s for sure though: Scream Factory certainly didn’t skimp on the visual quality, at least when it comes to The Curse (more on that in a minute). It features a very sharp, organic-looking transfer with well-resolved film grain from scene to scene, as well as an enormous amount of fine detail. There’s some excellent color reproduction and skin tones, as well as some decent blacks with pretty good shadow detail (although not as deep as they could be due to the grain lightening them up). Contrast and brightness levels are great, if not a smidge too high, and there are no signs of digital enhancement on display. It’s also a very clean presentation with next to no film artifacts leftover, save for some slight instability in certain scenes. It also comes with an excellent soundtrack, which is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track. The stereo experience really comes through with wonderful dynamics and ambience bouncing back and forth between speakers. Dialogue is always crystal clear, and both the sound effects and score are quite strong. Despite how I feel about the movie, it excels greatly in the A/V department.
As for Curse II: The Bite, it’s a different story, but not at the fault of Scream Factory’s efforts. Added text before the movie starts states that the presentation is not sourced from any original elements as they supposedly no longer exist. Instead, a less than savory film print has been utilized, as it was all that was available for a transfer. So don’t go into this movie expecting top-of-the-line visual quality like its predecessor. There are unstable grain levels, obviously, with an overall slight flicker and not a terribly high amount of fine detail. Colors are merely decent, but skin tones are not very good. Blacks are really deep but with constant crush, as well as high contrast – possibly to get the most out of the print. There’s been no attempt to digitally enhance the images either. However, there’s been lots of film artifacts leftover, including speckling, tears, lines running through the frame, staining, changeover cues, and a slightly unstable frame throughout. The soundtrack, which is also an English 2.0 DTS-HD track, is a decent enough stereo soundtrack, but narrow as far as the dialogue and sound effects. Score is actually mixed well into the proceedings with some mild dynamics to it, but nowhere near as good as the former film. There are also English subtitles on both movies with only the original theatrical trailer for The Curse as an extra (although you can find a couple of rare trailers for Curse II: The Bite on YouTube, but obviously in very poor quality).
THE CURSE (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): D/A/A
CURSE II: THE BITE (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): F+/C/B
The bottom line here is that I just didn’t care for The Curse or Curse II: The Bite and I’ll probably never watch them again. That being said, they’re titles that horror fans and Scream Factory fans have been clamoring for since the label hit the market. Now that they’re available, they can finally sink their teeth into them... and that’s all the humor I can muster. I know the point of these movies is to have fun with them, but I just couldn’t do it. I hope others will have more luck than I did.
- Tim Salmons