Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lovecraft's Corner #7: The Curse

Before I talk about today's film, I want to talk about my grading system: judging the film as an adaptation and then judging it as a film, on its own merits. It may seem strange to do so, but some works that stray away from the source material (Re-Animator is a prime example on this blog) are actually quite good on their own merits. Conversely, a movie that stays true to its source material may not take into account unfortunate implications or racist themes that were present in the source, and so the movie may end up repulsing viewers. Given that H. P. Lovecraft had incorporated some racial and miscegenation themes, judging any Lovecraft adaptation by such standards is important. So, why is this coming up thanks to today's movie,The Curse?

The Curse stands on IMDb with a 4.6 rating. That's pretty low - Die, Monster, Die!, the other adaptation of "The Colour Out Of Space", has a rating of 5.4. Still, this isn't proof it's bad in either aspect, right? stars Wil Wheaton, better known as Wesley? Ok, still not proof but....well, let's just do this. As usual, spoilers ahead.

The film opens with the police arresting an oddly-scabbed man, who's yelling at everyone to stay away from the water. Of course, with him inside a police car and being insane, no one's listening. The movie then cuts to a card giving the location and time - Tennessee (I guess they couldn't afford tickets to the New England area), six months prior to the opening. The credits roll over footage of a farmhouse, shot by a possibly-drunk cameraman. It's not certain. We meet the family - a religious zealot father named Nathan, the son he favors named Cyrus, a little girl named Alice, the mother named Frances, and a scrawny boy named Zack. There's also a guy who I guess is a farmhand; it's never really said, just mentioned he's setting up the well. Personalities are established fairly quickly, I admit. Only six minutes in, and I hate both Cyrus and Nathan. We also meet a sleazy real estate agent named Davidson who's trying to buy the farm - yeah, a lot of introductions are dropped in the first ten minutes.

It's soon established that Frances and Nathan had married after starting families and that Nathan is uninterested in sex, leading Frances to seek out the farmhand (who will not be seen again after this). Not much later, a meteor falling from the sky, revealing one of the film's biggest flaws: its special effects suck. Anyways, the family goes outside to investigate (and Nathan figures out what Frances did), and Zack retrieves Dr. Forbes. He says it's probably safe. The next day, Davidson visits and persuades Dr. Forbes to declare the thing safe, in order to ensure that the water company will build the dam in the area. Dr. Forbes tells the family that it's just waste released from an airplane. Zack isn't swayed, especially since he watched the glowing meteor melt into ooze and sink into the ground. Nathan then starts pumping from the well - water going to the crops, the farm animals, their dogs... yeah, if you've read the story, you know how that goes.
There's an abrupt jump to a man in a car, soon revealed to be Willis, who is responsible for determining the dam's location. Davidson shows him around to make sure he picks this area to buy up (making Davidson rich in the process). Meanwhile, Frances notes that several vegetables are ready for picking; however, cutting into the cabbage produces a briefly nauseating moment, and slicing a tomato produces more red fluid than a severed artery. That night, while Dr. Forbes is dealing with his guilt (and his wife Esther tries seducing him to make stay quiet), Zack steals water from their hose. The next morning shows it may be too late for Frances; she's already developing a sore. Both Alice and Zack are refusing to drink the water and eat the farm food at this point.

While Nathan and Zack are working, Cyrus starts screaming for help - he's caught out in the pasture with the horse trying to attack him (not that the footage looks like that). Zack gets a moment of revenge, and Frances is apparently going insane in a moment that's either creepy or hilarious. However, business goes on as usual, with Alice going to feed the oddly-molting chickens and Zack, Cyrus, and Nathan harvesting apples when Davidson comes along. He talks to Nathan and tries an apple to find, in a rather disgusting moment, it's rotting and filled with maggots. Nathan starts cutting open the other apples to find they're all diseased and worthless, and it's then Alice is attacked by the chickens (in yet another moment of unconvincing footage). She's saved, and the chickens start leaking yellowish ooze from their mouths and eyes. Somehow, this attack is bad enough that Alice has to stay in bed for a few days. Dr. Forbes tries the water at last and realizes something's wrong, both with the water and with Frances. That night, when Frances sews a sock to her hand, Nathan takes her upstairs and Zack runs for Dr. Forbes, who Nathan turns away. Zack is then punished, and Dr. Forbes takes a water sample, with the scene implying the 'colour' is present in fog.

Willis is continuing to survey the next day, when he needs a drink. The Crane place is right there; he knocks on the door and, getting no reply, wanders in. Frances attempts to stab him and Nathan shoos him out. Frances' insanity and appearance is getting no better, as shown by breakfast, and Zack is disposing of the food made for his sister. Cyrus, who is now developing the sores, and Nathan then go to check on the cows, only to find they've been infected too, showing signs of decay, and one exploding in a shower of insects. Nathan blames Frances' affair for their problems. She manages to get loose and Zack finds her, in very bad makeup. Nathan subdues her and takes her out to the cellar, much to Zack's dismay, Alice's sorrow, and Cyrus' excitement. Of course, that may just be him going insane too, I honestly can't tell.

Dr. Forbes finally gets the results of the water testing and is told it might be a new element that is altering the chemical composition of the water. ...uh, right. Anyways, he tries to reach Davidson and Willis, to no avail. Both Esther and Davidson make one last attempt to buy the farm, and do so, metaphorically, as Esther is mauled by the insane dogs and Davidson flees into the cellar and is caught by Frances in a horribly-done shot. That night, it's shown Zack has been buying food in town to keep his sister safe from the farm's sickness. He then goes to check on his mom, but Nathan catches him. When Zack gets in the house, repacking his bag (for no real reason), Nathan finds out what he's been doing, and it's shown Nathan's developing the sores too. Nathan then attacks Zack, and Cyrus attacks Alice. Zack manages to stop Nathan temporarily, though, and knocks out Cyrus with a bat so he can hide Alice while he goes for help.

Nathan manages to recover at some point and has already begun sealing up the house. Dr. Forbes arrives, finding the house shrouded in fog. He breaks in, and Nathan kills him. Zack comes downstairs and tries escaping via the sealed door when Nathan attacks him with a crowbar.

I can think of so many ways this could've been better done.

Zack gets away and finds Dr. Forbes' body by tripping over it. Nathan is about to kill Zack when Willis abruptly shows up and stabs him with a pitchfork. The house starts falling apart incredibly slowly, and Zack and Willis go to get Alice. When Cyrus returns for another attack, Zack pushes him from the top of the stairs. Zack THEN decides he has to save Frances, who was moved upstairs, and goes to do so while Willis makes sure Alice is safe. Zack finds Frances melting into a puddle, so that was pointless, and he FINALLY decides it's time to go. Cyrus and Nathan just won't stay dead, though, and try to stop him but fail. Zack, Willis, and Alice all get away and live happily ever after, and everything's ok!

Except Willis was the one who had the screaming breakdown at the beginning and was infected.

And Alice and Zack's fates are unknown, doubly worrying since they had more exposure to the water than Willis did and he got sick.

And the meteor's light is still around, as is its contaminating ooze.

Yeah, life still sucks.

So, that's The Curse. How does it fare as an adaptation? Surprisingly, despite its lower rating, it's a better adaptation than Die, Monster, Die! Even on its own merits, it's not a bad adaptation. The relatively downer ending is more true to the story's end, in which the colour never completely left. The meteor's effects on animals and crops are fairly accurate, even if the depiction was poorly executed, and the dam subplot actually came from the original story. They attempt to make it clear that it's not the rock itself that creates this effect, though it's hard to tell if they intended for the glowing color or the ooze that does it. That being said, it fails as an adaptation in terms of the characters - the thing that makes 'The Colour Out Of Space' so horrifying is that it happens to an ordinary family, all of whom are good people. They are completely innocent folks who suffer horrific fates for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and for that are made to decay from the inside out without having the ability to get away, even when they know something's wrong. As I've mentioned before, changing it from 'innocent victim' to 'he had it coming' undermines the story and the horror element. Even the wife, who is supposedly good, isn't fully innocent either, and, in the end, only Alice and Zack could be considered the good ones of the family - so, unsurprisingly, they get out.

Kriken, your thoughts?

Thanks. As a movie, I thought it had its moments, but the movie was held back by horrible effects, sub-par acting at times and a religious theme that wasn't needed. I'll admit, I don't mind the occasional religious theme, but this movie kept trying to hammer in the fact that all Nathan needed was 17th Century clothing to be a Puritan, and it really annoyed me. I'll admit that there was a scare factor with such scenes as the cabbage and the apples, but the tomato seemed more like comic-relief than scary and the apple scene was interrupted by the chicken fight (Which seemed to ruin the atmosphere a bit). I commented about how the effects from Die Monster Die were bad, but this movie somehow made them look good in comparison. I didn't think that was possible, and that was the movie where the Lovecraft monster looked like Snuffleupagus. The writing was rather cliche at times to the point that we WANTED to see Nathan and Cyrus die in the end. Charlie was the exact opposite of subtle and took all of 5 seconds for me to realize he was the villain. The ending was less than desired as I couldn't help but wonder what happened to Zack and Alice. Willis was never shown on-screen to be exposed by the 'colour' but somehow he gets the insanity and sores? I won't lose sleep over it, but I felt that it left an empty feeling in the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment