Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (1991)
"Deep in the heart of darkness, a nightmare is about to begin"
After her sister inadvertently disturbs a sacrificial ritual, American Elizbaeth Armstrong, who has just recently married a plantation owner and moved to Africa, finds herself on the receiving end of a curse from an enraged voodoo witch doctor who calls forth an ancient demon from the sea to seek revenge.
With nothing to do with either of the two previous films, Curse III: Blood Sacrifice, filmed under the much more anonymous title of Panga, is the classic case of a standalone horror film being slapped with a moniker of an ‘established’ series in an attempt to sell it to a broader audience – only I’m betting pretty much 90% of the target audience had never seen The Curse or had immediately forgotten about it in 1987, let alone the standalone sequel Curse II: The Bite.
The ironic thing is that this is the best of the three, something resembling a more traditional supernatural slasher film, and is the only one which has an actual curse in it. But there’s little meat to it and the flimsy plot about the ritual being interrupted is the only thing driving forward the narrative, trying to keep the film going right until the end but it just doesn’t keep things interesting. Curse III: Blood Sacrifice is watchable enough, if wholly plodding as a result. Only-time director Sean Barton manages some mild suspense in a couple of scenes in the sugar cane fields but really fails to grasp the nettle when it comes to horror. The terror that stalks the characters is unseen, save for some heavy breathing and first-person perspective shots, feeding the audience the red herring that the killer is the witch doctor, but this threat stays in the background for far too long. With the flimsy plot not giving the characters anything worthwhile to do, Curse II: The Bite almost puts the brakes on because it doesn’t know which direction to go in – the script has a starting point and a finale in mind but with no way of going from A to B. There is some mild nudity and some mild gore, but this isn’t enough to cover the gaps in any real tension-building or suspense. Too much of the carnage happens off-screen and there isn’t a high enough body count to really make the monster out to be a threat.
The African setting does give the film a little more originality and change of pace, even if the bulk of the film is seen through the eyes of white colonisers who need to explain everything about the ‘savage’ continent and its kooky superstitions and practices. I know, it’s easy to look back from 2022 in hindsight to see how obvious some of this stuff is but every black character is either a crazy wide-eyed madman or a frightened villager. Its clear that there are attempts to create a clash of cultures between the American characters and the African culture that surrounds them but it’s an easy way out of the script to try and do something horror related.
Curse II: The Bite ventures into creature feature territory during the finale, revealing the killer to be some sea monster, replete in its man-in-a-suit prosthetics and wielding a machete no less. I really liked the look of this monster and wished the makers of the film had been more comfortable in showcasing it a little earlier in the running time. Or maybe it was just too cumbersome to do much else with. Sadly, Curse II: The Bite only finds some energy and momentum during this final ten minutes and then everything is wrapped up quickly. The monster, previously stealthy and deadly in its pursuit of victims, gets amnesia and forgets how to kill when up against the Final Girl to give us some false scares but again, Barton’s lack of horror know-how really shows at this point. Blink and you’ll miss the big showdown at the end, such is the disappointing climax. It doesn’t make much sense for a monster with razor sharp claws and fangs to use a machete to kill, but then we wouldn’t have that ambiguous final shot, would we?
Christopher Lee lends the film some genre royalty, as you’d expect, in his role as the local voodoo expert. It’s the type of role he could sleepwalk his way through in his later years but doesn’t phone it in, even if his role is largely relegated to plot exposition with a pair of monologues that even the other characters don’t really seem interested in. The cynic in me thinks I’m sure the South African shooting had something to do with him accepting the part. There’s also some attempt to make him out as a red herring, having some sort of connection to the monster, but this is dropped after its initial setup. Jenilee Harrison is the female lead, easy on the eyes but very bland in delivery, though to really blame her for the poor script is a bit unfair. None of the characters have anything worthwhile to do except stand around waiting for something to happen, which means they’re waiting a while.
Curse III: Blood Sacrifice makes for a passable viewing but that’s about it. It’s not exciting enough to be engrossing and it’s not gory or sleazy enough to be gratuitously entertaining. It promises more than it delivers in a competent, if wholly unsatisfying way.
Curse III: Blood Sacrifice
Also Known As: Panga
Director(s): Sean Barton
Writer(s): Richard Haddon Haines (original story), John Hunt (screenplay), Sean Barton (screenplay)
Actor(s): Christopher Lee, Jenilee Harrison, Henry Cele, Andre Jacobs, Zoe Randall
Duration: 88 mins