cabbage, wormy apples, carnivorous chickens, and cows spewing
maggots. This film has it alleverything except good
dialog, believable acting, and a cohesive plot. Welcome to
the latest feature-film treatment of "The Colour out of Space,"
a disappointing miasma of redneck angst.
As in Lovecraft's story, the film tells the tale of a glowing
meteorite and a planned reservoir in the backwoods. But instead
of "west of Arkham (where) the hills rise wild," first-time
director David Keith sets the film in a small Tennessee town
called Tellico Plains.
Lovecraft's Gardners have become the Cranes, led by Bible-thumping
patriarch Nathanplayed by country crooner Claude Akins.
Will Wheaton (infamous as Star Trek's Wesley Crusher) plays
Zach, Nathan's step-son who's been feeling, um . . . crushed
by step-dad's fundamentalism. Frances, Zach's mother, is also
frustrated by Nathan, but her complaint concerns "not gettin'
any," prompting her to take a roll in the hay with a very
Unfortunately for Frances, the timing of the tryst couldn't
be worse. A storm descends on the Crane farm and so does one
big-ass meteorite, rousing Nathan from a deep sleep to find
his satisfied wife stealing out of the farmhand's love shack.
Zach, our young hero, is the first to find the glowing and
membranous meteorite. His politically correct neighbor, Dr.
Alan Forbes, wants to call in the Environmental Protection
Agency but is talked out of it by a real-estate con-man named
Charley Davidson, who is trying to buy the Crane farm.
Charley doesn't want to worry the authorities about the
space-rock's possible environmental impact and instead convinces
the doctor to study the meteoritebecause once you're
a doctor of anything, you're qualified to study everything!
As in "The Colour out of Space," the rock shrinks overnight
and Forbes theorizes it's because the space pebble is mostly
composed of escaping carbon dioxide. Observant Zach begs to
differ. Paraphrasing the original story, he tells Forbes that
the rock glowed during the night and, even though there was
no wind, all the trees around it were moving.
Lovecraft was a bit more explicit, writing that the trees:
"were twitching morbidly and spasmodically, clawing in convulsive
and epileptic madness at the moonlit clouds; scratching impotently
in the noxious air as if jerked by some alien and bodiless
line of linkage with subterrene horrors writhing and struggling
below the black roots."
That night, a roused Zach witnesses the last glow of the
meteorite as it melts and oozes into the soil. Thoughtful
Zach thinks to himself, "hmmm . . . I wonder if it's going
to get into the ground water?" This plot point is quickly
brushed under the rug as Charley bribes the Doctor to concoct
a story about the meteorite being nothing more sinister than
a frozen lump of lavatory waste dumped from a passing airliner"airplane
doo-doo" as Cyrus, Zach's obese and very annoying step-brother,
puts it. But it's no earthly doo-doo seeping into the water
table. It's a very nasty alien substance that quickly contaminates
the farm's well, crops, and livestock.
Frances notices the effects when she sees cabbages and tomatoes
grown to Lovecraft's "phenomenal size and unwonted gloss."
A harvest that looks nice and crispy outside, but is rotten
and nasty on the inside, stuffed with a terrible viscous fluid
that makes her sick to her stomach.
Suspicious Zach thinks, "Hey, I wonder if the food has been
corrupted by the tainted water?" Lovecraft wrote, "It had
an evil taste that was not exactly foetid nor exactly salty."
But it is exactly evil.
Insightful Zach refuses to drink the water and eat the farm
food, but everyone else does and one by one the Cranes begin
to mutate. Mother Crane is the first to go, her madness epitomized
in a scene were she slowly darns one of Nathan's stinky socks
onto her hand. Stepbrother Cyrus is next, a pitiful weight-challenged
redneck gone bad.
Nathan thinks the madness is divine retribution for Frances
having looked for love in all the wrong places and locks the
poor woman in the cellar. But the tainted water does not discriminate
and eventually works its way through him as well, bringing
out his inner beast: a demon designed by the film's associate
producer, infamous horror director (and marginal Lovecraft
adapter) Lucio Fulci.
Meanwhile, Doctor Forbes finally notices the weirdness on
the Crane farm and decides to get the water tested. An excited
government scientist quickly informs him, "It's alternating
the molecular structure of the water!"
Everything on the farm (except for cautious Zach and his
little sister, who have been consuming their own survival
rations) knows this first hand, having de-evolved into some
pretty horrible beasts. Their mutations culminate in a gory
climax where the very house becomes infected and rips itself
apart, board by board.
Why the farmhouse commits suicide is not really made clear,
but then again much of the film's editing does not make sense.
The doctor's explanation is as good as any when, in the beginning
of the film, he's dragged away by the police (we never do
find out what for) screaming: "It's in the water!"
It may have been in the water, but we highly doubt that
any of this nuttiness was in Lovecraft's mind back in March
of 1927 when he wrote the tale this noxious paste is rendered
down from. As for why the film is called The Cursewell
that, at least, is obvious. The film itself is a curse, and
it continues to visit its horror upon us afresh every couple
of years in a string of sequels that we'll quickly dispatch