Saturday, February 23, 2008


DEATH CURSE OF TARTU, an early horror offering from Florida schlock-peddler William Grefe, treads some pretty well-known ground: a long-dead Native American (Seminole? I don't think the film specifies, since one character simply refers to himself as "an Indian") rises from the dead when his final resting place is disturbed, a concept I'm pretty sure was old hat even in 1966.

After a neat gag involving the opening credits (in which they're presented on parchment found in Tartu's crypt--a money-saving move that gobbles all of Grefe's creativity) we're introduced to a scenario that'll become all-too-familiar: a gaggle of photogenic but personality-bereft teens head to a remote location--in this case, the party capital of the Florida Everglades--for a good time and run afoul of the titular menace. Crap-film aficionados may be previously inoculated for TARTU's stall tactics (such as long stretches of dialogue, extended "stalk" sequences that are light on suspense but heavy on the lulz, and gratuitous musical numbers--I still refuse to believe people once danced like that) before getting to the murderous fun. Those looking for a wall-to-wall bloodbath will be sorely disappointed, as Grefe barely pushes the parameters of a PG-rating, but what it's missing in the red stuff it compensates with knee-slapping hilarity (check out the early scene in which an anaconda "devours" its victim, as the actor wraps the snake around himself while emoting like a mofo).

Though his kill scenes are bad-movie gold, from the painfully fake rattlesnake attack to the annoying redhead who gets her arm gnawed off by an alligator, Tartu makes for a poor zombie. He doesn't do much more than open the lid of his coffin, preferring to take the form of "wild beasts" to spread his curse. He does climb out of his grave for the final ten minutes, though he inexplicable transforms from a skeletal zombie to a flesh-and-blood warrior for a weak showdown with the lead (before buying the farm in a pool of quicksand).

Fans of awful cinema might get a charge out of DEATH CURSE OF TARTU, but even they might need the assistance of Joel and the 'bots to make it through. The morbidly curious may want to give it a go, but I gotta tell you: I've seen cold molasses move quicker than this.

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