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John’s Horror Corner: Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice (1988; aka, Catacombs), a B-movie that clearly has nothing to do with any other “Curse” movies.

February 10, 2019

MY CALL: This film features some nice shots and set design, but is otherwise rather boring in terms of horror, scares, effects, action, death scenes… pretty much everything that makes a horror movie “fun.” IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH: Well, The Curse (1987) and Curse II: The Bite (1989), then maaaaybe even Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (1991; aka Panga). I feel as if the later in the franchise you find yourself, the lower the quality of the sequel.

This is the first Curse movie to have a director whose career didn’t both start and end with a Curse film—two directors had only ever directed one film (a Curse film), and the director of part 1 only made two other films of which I’ve never heard before researching this. Director of Curse IV, David Schmoeller (Tourist Trap, Puppet Master, Netherworld) has made successful films both before and after touching the Curse franchise, which makes me hope this may be the best installment in the series—although I’d be wrong. Adding to the oddity of this film (broadly released in 1993, but made in 1988), it is “part IV” but it was produced between the releases of parts I and III.

Franchise Continuity SIDEBAR: Adapted from Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space”, the first “curse” (The Curse) involved melty-fleshed zombies created from an other-worldly ooze that infected the water supply from meteorite contamination (in Tennessee). Clearly having nothing to do with the first film, Curse II: The Bite (1989) followed a man infected by a radioactive snake bite and mutated into a snake-handed, snake-regurgitating monster in Arizona. Then Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (1991; aka Panga) predated the other two stories, taking place across the world in East Africa in the 1950s when an angry witch doctor summoned a Sea Demon (from the Black Lagoon) to kill a bunch of white people posing affront to his culture. There seems to be no connection between these curses at all! Our fourth cursed film brings us to a 16th century Italian abbey where a demon has long been entrapped.

Produced by Charles Band (Puppet Master 1-13, Tourist Trap, Subspecies I-IV, Creepazoids), it should come as no surprise that this lower budget horror swings for the fences in terms of both effects and sets. Opening in a monastery in 1506, a brotherhood of monks banish a demon in the cellars. This fiend spits acidic bile and demonstrates other magical threats as it is locked away. Meanwhile, the filming sites are impressive—particularly shots of the Italian countryside and the abbey. I also enjoyed the catacombs sets; very elaborate.

Almost 500 years later a young American woman (Laura Schaefer; Ghost Town, Freddy’s Nightmares) visits the Abbey for her studies. As soon as she arrives the entrapped demon begins to influence its surroundings and a monk is dragged into a grave a buried alive.

At this point, it’s not uncommon to endure a slow 45-60 minutes of exposition and this film is no exception. However, we do enjoy cool shots of catacombs and the abbey throughout leading to the monks discovering that the entrapped evil long considered fiction, is real!

This is when things would normally get fun in 80s horror. The ancient evil animates Christ on the cross, which kills a monk with the nail pulled from his feet! But alas, that might be the only scene worth our time. Next it possesses a woman and uses really dumb telekinesis to beat up monks before it reveals its ugly self and just does more of the same. Hardly any blood, basically no gore, and barely anything coming close to a worthy jumpscare (or real scare). Disappointingly, the finale wasn’t worth the wait. A totally boring final fight with a lame ancient evil. Sigh.

This was all sorts of not good and, for horror and effects, I’d rank it the worst of the Curse series. At least Curse II (1989) tried to show off its lousy effects as much as it could, and The Curse (1987) was a B-movie delight! I’d go watch them instead.

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