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Canuxploitation!

Cursed

(AKA Gargoyle) 1990, Starring Ron Lea, Catherine Colvey, Tom Rack. Directed by Mychel Arsenault.



Fade in. On a stormy night, Vlad and his girlfriend, Flora, lounge in bed. As the camera passes over their sparse apartment, lingering on a large crucifix on the wall, Vlad rises and glances out the window. Cue thunder sound effect, as he says, "You should see the way the light hits the church." Cut to stock footage of lightning, followed by a shot of the church set against a cloudless night sky.

Mychel Arsenault's Quebec-shot straight-to-video horror epic Cursed never recovers from this dismal opening sequence, a bit of amateurishly-crafted filmmaking that unfolds into several confusing, arbitrary plots riddled with dime store production values. Sporting a final twist that makes Rock n Roll Nightmare's climax appear sane and logical, Cursed is an atrociously bad exercise in Canadian horror film saved only by the few unintentional laughs to be had along the way.

After Vlad (played by a mush-mouthed Ron Lea, The Carpenter) turns away from his bedroom window, the storm dislodges a stone gargoyle from a church spire, crushing a priest to death. The next day, busy genetic scientist Vlad stops by the crime scene on his way to work, and pockets a chunk of the gargoyle with a strange symbol carved in the stone. On arriving at the hospital laboratory, Vlad resumes his work on "Project G," an experimental formula which will be used to make plants resistant to acid rain. Vlad wants to eventually use the pollution repellant on humans, but his partner Susan (Joy Boushel, Terror Train) is dead set against his plans for animal testing. Vlad's well reasoned argument, "I've been thinkingwe need monkeys," falls on deaf ears, so instead, he slinks down to the morgue (indicated by a piece of blank paper Scotch-taped to the wall with the word "morgue" hastily scrawled on it) to see if the coroner will supply some live cells.

Meanwhile, museum restoration expert Flora (Catherine Colvey) is approached by an obviously nefarious church sexton (Tom Rack, Mindfield) to fix the fallen gargoyle. She declines, telling him that she has never restored a piece of sculpture before, but the sexton pleads with her until she finally agrees. When Vlad comes by the museum to pick her up at the end of the day, he finds that Flora has almost completed work on the gargoyle in just a few hours. She tells him about the creepy sexton, and he shows her the stone chunk from that morning emblazoned with the letter "G". Flora goes on to explain the incredible mysticism of the letter G, proving her case by brilliantly listing four or five fairy tale words that begin with G, like "gnome." Faced with that deluge of irrefutable evidence, Vlad starts to worry that Flora might be getting obsessed with the stone creature. And why not? After all, gargoyles are the "ultimate link between heaven and hell." As if to prove Flora's point, on the night just before the sexton picks up his statue, a museum security guard enters Flora's studio to find all the furniture flying around the room on fishing line, and the gargoyle visibly leaking Mattel brand green slime from his mouth.

Across town at the morgue, the coroner (Michael Sinelnikoff) is busy performing an autopsy on a member of the sexton's church who mysteriously died (the twelfth parishioner so far!). As Police Officer Mary (Claire Riley, Scanners III) looks on, the coroner sticks a hypodermic needle in the subject's arm and draws out some green slime. Studying it, the budding Quincy tells the observing officer that "I don't want to know why she died." Instead, he offers his professional opinion that there is a mysterious disease that decays the organs of its victims. And who better to investigate a killer virus than a cop? Realizing that this may just be the break she needs to get that comfy desk job, Mary tries to pry the answer out of Susan, but she remains tight-lipped about Project G.

Not only are gargoyles the mystical gatekeepers of the afterlife, but they are also super brilliant scientists: when Vlad goes to work the next day, the "G" symbol carved into the piece of the gargoyle " intuitively" inspires the design of Vlad's perfect anti-acid rain chromosome. When Susan quits the project, objecting to what she sees as Vlad's "anti-science" methods, Vlad responds by cutting his hand and infecting his blood with the untried substance. Using his new genetic code, Vlad immediately "senses" that Flora is in trouble, and runs to her apartment where he discovers her lifeless body holding a book of medieval carvings. Vlad tries to help the viewers make sense of it all by explaining that the two carvings on the gargoyle balance the good and evil in the beast, and since one is missing, evil has triumphed. But at this point logic is a lost cause, and all credibility finally goes out the window when Vlad explains that Project G has somehow made him immortal. Wasting no time, Vlad traverses the epic journey from his apartment to the church across the street to battle...who? The sexton? The gargoyle? Beats the hell out of meVlad enters the church and walks into a sitting room where he is served cake by the sexton, Susan (who may or may not have been murdered) and the apparently no-longer deceased Flora.

Easily one of the most nonsensical Canadian horror films ever made, Cursed heedlessly barrels through its fragmented plot, rarely bothering to let the viewer in on what might be happening. Not only does the ending not make one lick of sense, but whole scenes of exposition seem to be missing, perhaps eaten away by the ubiquitous and unexplained green slime. Most maddening of all is the unclear purpose of "Project G." So heavily debated in several early scenes, the nature of Vlad's experiment isn't even touched upon until at least halfway through the movie, and even then, it's left pretty vague. Make no mistake, Cursed is largely unintelligible, and worse yet, it doesn't even care that you don't understand itit slows down only to toss you more ill-fitting puzzle pieces.

With a terribly overwrought acting style, Ron Lea also deserves special mention as a totally unconvincing scientist, brilliant or otherwise. Slurring his contractions as though drunk, Lea drags his beefy frame through the film, exuding slightly less charisma than the stone gargoyle. Curiously enough, Lea's character of Vlad is almost an exact carbon copy of Neil, the tomato experimenting scientist played by Paul Coufos in Damian Lee's Food of the Gods II both are scientists who struggle with the morality of animal experimentation, and they look almost identical, right down to their giant glasses and curly mullets.

Unable to fully decide if the Church is the source of all evil or just a crumbling wall trying to keep it out, Cursed's clumsy attempt to interweave Catholicism into a basic viral infection plot gives it away as a distinctly French-Canadian twist on horror. Arsenualt also employs harshly-framed camera angles that slice French street signs and license plates out of each shot in an attempt to give his film a generic setting, but in this case, it's done so badly that it only belies the director's intentions and reaffirms the film as Canadian.

The embarrassing acting performances, continuity errors, vapid dialogue, non-existent plot logic and a wholly terrible musical score all contribute to the film's complete lack of credibility. Due to the scattered laughs to be had from the film's minuscule production values, Cursed isn't quite as boring as Quarantine, Freakshow or Thrillkill, but nonetheless deserves to be placed alongside those bottom feeders as one of the worst films I have had the pleasure of reviewing on this site. Seek it out!


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