Way to go, “The Curse.” You get me all excited for a horror film about witches, or maybe about a girl getting her first period, and then you turn out to be about a meteor from outer space that makes people crazy. Where’s the “curse” in that? I ask you.
“The Curse” stars a young Wil Wheaton, credited here as Will Wheaton, as this was before he lost the second “L” in a tragic spelling accident. The film was released in September 1987, the very same month that Wheaton made his debut as the title character in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Wil(l) Wheaton must have been one happy scrawny 15-year-old that fall!
In “The Curse,” he plays Zack, a Tennessee farm boy who lives with his meek mother and jerky stepfather, Nathan, played by old-timey Western actor Claude Akins. Nathan is a Bible-quoting religious zealot who slaps Zack around and favors his own son, Cyrus, a bullying, lard-based older teen whose only shirt is an orange jersey that stops above his navel, exposing his doughy, hirsute midsection. What reason Cyrus has for wearing this article of clothing even once, let alone all the time, I cannot fathom. Maybe this is where the curse comes in??
Back to Nathan the jerky stepfather. His only comment after his wife makes a hearty breakfast is that “the biscuits are a little dry,” and in bed he tells her that it’s not proper for her to make sexual advances on him because that’s the man’s job. Even if he’s right about that (he isn’t), imagine the humiliation in being rejected for sex by Claude Akins.
So Zack’s home is not a particularly happy one for him or his mother, and it only gets worse when the meteor falls from the sky. (Very few situations are improved by the arrival of a meteor.) It occurs on a night when Mom, tired of being spurned by her husband, seeks comfort in the arms of the farmhand, Mike, who is generally shirtless and whose hair on his head, chest, and back, is of uniform thickness. I don’t normally spend so much time talking about a movie’s shirts or lack thereof, but this one is a special case. Mom and Mike are a-doin’ it out in his cabin when this incandescent sphere the size of a VW bug roars down from the sky and skids to a stop in the backyard. When everybody comes running out of the house to investigate, Nathan sees his wife coming out of the cabin, and, well, if you thought he was sour and contemptuous before…
The farmhand then vanishes from the movie and is never seen or mentioned again.
There is some debate among the various family members and their neighbors as to the object’s origin. The doctor who lives next door, Allan, says any glowing thing that has fallen from space ought to be examined by scientists, probably the Environmental Protection Agency. But the local real estate agent, Charlie, urges Allan not to call the EPA, lest some government types come snoopin’ around and declare the land “contaminated” or “toxic” or “deadly to humans” or some other liberal Nanny State claptrap. Duly convinced, and apparently not as smart as you expect doctors to be, Allan tells the family that the thing is just a big frozen chunk of poop from an airplane lavatory that was accidentally unloaded as the plane flew overhead. Nathan, who has not smiled or expressed any positive emotion so far in the film, laughs merrily at this, as does his thick-faced, belly-shirt-wearing imbecile son.
Zack is not convinced. Zack is too smart to be fooled by the old “that’s no meteor, that’s just frozen airplane poop” story. But whatever it was, it has seeped into the ground and disappeared. Within days, the family’s water supply starts to taste funny, but Nathan gets angry when Zack points this out and makes him drink it anyway. Nathan will abide no disparaging remarks concerning the water.
Soon the crops are affected, too. Mom cuts a fresh head of lettuce in half and finds it full of gooey slime. Then she cuts open a tomato, which is supposed to be full of gooey slime, and it sprays rust-colored effluvium at her. Still, this is better than anything that goes on in the kitchen at Applebee’s.
Then Zack’s little sister — whom I didn’t mention earlier because she is extraneous — gets attacked by the barnyard chickens, which appear to have gone insane, more so than you expect from chickens. A horse gets angry and attacks Cyrus, too, though that could have been a professional disagreement. The point is, it’s obvious to us and Zack and no one else that something has tainted the water supply. If I had to guess, I would guess that it was the thing that fell from space and subsequently melted into the ground. BUT I AM NOT A SCIENTIST.
Meanwhile, Mom develops gross pustules on her face and gradually becomes an oozing monster, so Nathan locks her in the cellar, as one does. Charlie the real estate guy comes snooping around (no reason is given), and she tears him apart, zombie-style, as one does. John Schneider, best known for his role on “The Dukes of Hazzard” (he played a character named The Blond One, I Can Never Remember If That’s Luke or Bo Duke), shows up as a Tennessee Valley Authority agent looking for a new dam site, and it befalls him to save Zack and the little sister before everything in the house melts, oozes, or explodes. A grateful nation thanks you, John Schneider.
The main problem with “The Curse” is that it’s stupid. The secondary problem is that it doesn’t make any sense. The tertiary problem is that it’s stupid again. Why does Nathan refuse to acknowledge that something is wrong with the water and food supply? Why is the local doctor such an idiot? How come the giant boils on Mom’s face go unnoticed by everyone (including Mom) for several days? Who put the Wheaton kid in charge? Why does he get top billing? A sequel to this movie exists, and I assume it clarifies these matters. Or maybe “the curse” is that we’re destined to never know?? We’ll never know.