Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice (1988)

curse4_2Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice (1988/1993)
AKA Catacombs

Starring Timothy Van Patten, Ian Abercrombie, Jeremy West, Laura Schaefer, Vernon Dobtcheff, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Brett Porter, Michael Pasby, Mapi Galán, Nicola Morelli

Directed by David Schmoeller

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:
halfstar

On the B-movie scale:
onestar


At long last I have arrived at the end of my cursed journey through the unrelated Curse films, and unfortunately for me Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice is the worst of the bunch. The film began life as Catacombs, a 1988 Empire International film that got shelved when the company went under. For reasons I’m not privy to, Catacombs was shelved for five years after it was completed, even though Empire head Charles Band had created Full Moon and become well-established in the meantime. And when it was eventually released it came out as Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice. I suppose that any connection, even one as tenuous as this, to an ’80s horror film that some people like must have made it more “rentable” back in the day.
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Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (1991)

thecurse3_1Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (1991)
AKA Panga, Blood Sacrifice, Witchcraft

Starring Christopher Lee, Jenilee Harrison, Henry Cele, Andre Jacobs, Zoe Randall, Olivia Dyer, Gavin Hood, Dumi Shongwe, Jennifer Steyn

Directed by Sean Barton

Expectations: Low.

onestar


I used to think Christopher Lee was badass in everything… then I saw Curse III: Blood Sacrifice. I can’t hold it against him, though, as everything in Curse III is less than it should be. On paper I’m sure this one looked like it had potential, and Christopher Lee is in it? Well yeah, sure, here’s a sack of money; go make a movie! But what resulted was less movie and more insomnia cure.

One of the worst things about Curse III is that its plot can be summarized completely in one sentence (and that’s without exaggeration). Here goes: The American wife of a sugar cane farmer in Africa angers the local witch doctor, who curses her entire family to die by way of an ancient ocean spirit. There’s definitely potential for a fun horror movie there, but Curse III sidesteps every opportunity and runs screaming in the opposite direction. A simple premise is fine, but without an engaging story the audiovisual aspect of the film — the filmmaking itself — must grab the audience and shine. Director Sean Barton may have many credits as an editor (including Return of the Jedi!), but his talents as a director are severely lacking. Unsurprisingly, Curse III is his only directorial effort.

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Curse II: The Bite (1989)

thecurse2_1Curse II: The Bite (1989)
AKA The Bite, Blood Biter

Starring Jill Schoelen, J. Eddie Peck, Jamie Farr, Bo Svenson, Savina Gersak, Marianne Muellerleile, Sydney Lassick, Terrence Evans, Shiri Appleby

Directed by Frederico Prosperi

Expectations: None. Hopefully it’s more fun than the unrelated first one.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


Curse II: The Bite isn’t a horror movie bursting with originality, but it is bursting with a lot of fun and great FX work, and in a low-budget horror movie that ends up counting for a lot. For the most part it is a slow-burn horror film, but it’s one that rewards its viewers steadily leading up the incredible, exciting finale absolutely chock full of fantastic FX work from Screaming Mad George. It’s really surprising to see such plentiful FX work in a low-budget film, and it goes to show you that if you get a trained professional to provide practical FX you can have a kick-ass horror movie without breaking the bank. Let’s bring back that trend in horror films!

Curse II begins on an ominous note: a pair of radiation-suited employees of the Yellow Sands Nuclear Test Site in the Arizona desert pick up a snake with a pair of snake-gettin’ tongs. Hmm, maybe The Bite sub-title refers to a snakebite! But if you don’t figure it out from that initial scene, during the credits we’re treated to snakes, snakes and more snakes. But not just snakes doing the usual slithering around and flicking their tongues in and out. These snakes are climbing up the chain-link fence surrounding the test site. Some of them just hang there on the fence, too, perhaps because they’re resting, but probably because they were just climbing up the fence to have a better vantage point from which to plot their nefarious plans.

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The Curse (1987)

thecurse_9The Curse (1987)
AKA The Farm

Starring Wil Wheaton, Claude Akins, Malcolm Danare, Cooper Huckabee, John Schneider, Amy Wheaton, Steve Carlisle, Kathleen Jordon Gregory, Hope North, Steve Davis

Directed by David Keith

Expectations: For some reason I’m really stoked about this one.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
onehalfstar


The Curse puts a few different horror movie premises together and expects them to play nice, but instead they just kinda sit apart from one another and refuse to jell. On one hand, it presents itself as a small town paranoia-based ’50s throwback film. A crazed man with a nasty boil on his face is taken away by the police while screaming, “It’s in the water!” He nervously watches out the window as they drive away from his home, as everyone in the neighborhood waters their lawn, or washes their car, or drinks from the hose… etc.

After this opening, the film shifts gears to the story of a small family farm owned by Nathan Crane (Claude Akins). Nathan is a strict religious man who berates his wife, Frances (Kathleen Jordon Gregory), for every little thing she does wrong. She’s actually doing a great job taking care of the house and the kids, Nathan’s just an overbearing asshole with the Lord on his side (in his mind). Here The Curse becomes something of a religious-based horror film, with Nathan seeing the family’s misfortune and hardships as a curse brought onto them by his wife’s behavior.

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