Tag Archives: Lucas Till

Movie Review: The Curse of Downers Grove (2015)

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I was quite shocked to discover that The Curse of Downers Grove is written by Bret Easton Ellis, author of one of my favourite books of all-time, American Psycho. Yes, it has that brutal violence Ellis is known for, but in terms of logic and common sense, it’s as though the script was written by Patrick Bateman.

Starring not one but two Aussie starlets, the film is marketed as a supernatural horror about a curse that kills one senior student at Downers Grove High School every year. In reality, the curse is nothing but a red herring, as the bulk of the 90-minute film is a violent teen psychological thriller in the vein of something closer to Cape Fear — where the protagonist is forced to defend herself against an insidious miniacal threat.

The protagonist in this case is Chrissie (played by Neighbours alum Bella Heathcote), who against her better judgment ends up going to a party with her skanky best friend (played by fellow Aussie Penelope Mitchell), where she fights off the sexual advances of a local football star Chuck (played by Kevin Zegers). This sets off a chain reaction in which Chrissie, her brother and her friends become the victims of stalking, threats and abuse at the hands of Chuck and his drugged-up goons, while his typical sports dad (Tom Arnold) keeps his cop buddies at bay.

So The Curse of Downers Grove is a completely different film to what it is being promoted as, which I find strange because teen supernatural horrors are a dime a dozen these days while teen psychological thrillers are rarer and arguably more intriguing.

In any case, the film just doesn’t work. While there are moments of tension, the narrative is all over the place. None of the things any of the characters do in the film make any sense whatsoever, and the two worst culprits are the most important characters to the story, Chrissie and Chuck. It’s hard to list example without giving away plot spoilers, but let me just say that it’s easier to count the instances where their actions and decisions make sense than those that don’t. Normal human beings don’t act in this way, even extremely stupid and naive ones. And yet the film had me wondering whether there was some kind of psychotic fantasy thing going on because no characters were behaving rationally. It didn’t help that there were occasional flashes of what appear to be random visions that had no reason to be in the film at all.

This weird, jarring experience is capped off by a grotesquely violent third act that’s also full of logic gaps before a pretty obvious “twist” ending brings the whole mess to a merciful end. I don’t know what Ellis and director Derick Martini were aiming for here, though it feels like a waste of a talented cast. I think Bella Heathcote has real star potential. She was a standout in the 2012 big screen adaptation of Dark Shadows and has the unique look and acting abilities to take her fame to the next level, which is bound to happen after she stars as Jane Bennett in the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I also quite like Kevin Zegers, who always plays fantastic bad-boy types and will always be remembered by me for snapping his legs sideways and then getting devoured by wolves in the underrated 2010 horror Frozen, not to be confused with the highest-grossing animated film of all time.

Alas, The Curse of Downers Grove turned out to be a frustratingly crap film. There are elements that appear promising, but Ellis’s lunacy and Martini’s ability to shape it into a logical coherent experience killed whatever chance it might have had.

1.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Wolves (2014)

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There have been a plethora of werewolf and vampire movies and TV series hanging around ever since Twilight took off, and I don’t think the unimaginatively titled Wolves, a Canadian production looking to ride the wave, has gotten the message that too much is just…too much.

Wolves is technically not a bad effort. It just fails to provide anything new or even attempt a creative spin on the familiar teen genre. Lucas Till, whom some of you might remember from the two most recent X-Men movies as Havoc, plays Cayden Richards, a happy teenager and jock who suddenly discovers that he is a werewolf. He ends up on the run and lands in the town of Lupine Ridge, a town full of his breed, to find out the mysteries of his heritage. Naturally, he meets a hot young girl (Merritt Patterson), and the two fall for each other because there’s no one else around. No love triangle is refreshing, but it’s also kinda boring.

However, the focus of Wolves is, thankfully, not on the romance. It’s more about tensions between Cayden and a dangerous pack of wolves led by Connor, played by Game of Thones’ Jason Momoa. The big fella is the headliner for the movie but he comes across as fairly bland. In fact, most of the film comes across as fairly bland. There’s werewolf sex and werewolf fights, but the story itself is not interesting or distinguishing enough for Wolves to avoid the label of a wannabe attempt.

On the bright side, it’s solidly directed by writer/director David Hayter (who penned the scripts for X-Men, X-Men 2 and Watchmen) in his directorial debut, and the wolves look more like traditional werewolves than the big dogs they’ve become thanks to Twilight.

Still, it’s hard to determine what Wolves was aiming for other than another run-of-the-mill teen wolf flick. It was made for a minuscule budget of US$18 million. It is, as far as I know, not based on any best-selling books. It doesn’t appear to have any major rising stars or teen heartthrobs, unless you put Till (who looks more “unusual” than handsome in my humble opinion) or Momoa (who is too old) in those categories. And it appears to be a standalone with no prospects of a sequel.

Perhaps it will give those suffering from Twilight withdrawal symptoms a shot in the arm, but for everyone else, Wolves should either be watched as a DVD rental when the options are limited or a late-night cable entry when there’s nothing else to do.

2 stars out of 5