Curse of Downers Grove, The (2015)
Starring Bella Heathcote, Lucas Till, Kevin Zegers, Penelope Mitchell, Zane Holtz, Helen Slater
Directed by Derick Martini
The Curse of Downers Grove is a teen angst quasi-horror flick adapted from the Michael Hornburg novel Downers Grove, and it’s written by Bret Easton Ellis and the film’s director, Derick Martini.
Novelist Ellis is famous for his fiction and the movies made from them – Less Than Zero, American Psycho, The Rules of Attraction, and The Informers – but this is the first time he’s adapted someone else’s work for the screen. Up-and-coming indie filmmaker Derick Martini found fame with Lymelife, which was exec produced by Martin Scorsese. His follow-up, Hick, starred Chloe Grace Moretz, Blake Lively, and Eddie Redmayne. For two such magnetic creators, it’s hard to imagine the result of their collaboration is so pedestrian. Not that The Curse of Downers Grove is bad (I liked it), but I expected more considering the source.
Starring Bella Heathcote, Lucas Till, Kevin Zegers, Penelope Mitchell, Zane Holtz, Helen Slater, and Tom Arnold, the story takes place in the aptly named Downer’s Grove, a small town where not much goes right. Especially not for the student body: For the past eight years, ever since the high school was built on sacred land, one senior from the graduating class has died in a horrible freak accident just before graduation day.
The action follows Chrissie Swanson (Heathcote), who, despite having witnessed last year’s death up close and personal, does not believe there’s a curse at all. On the weekend before the cap and gown ceremony, Chrissie and her younger brother, Dave (Martin Spanjers), are left alone when their mom (Slater) goes to Las Vegas for a short getaway with her boyfriend.
Needless to say, the party soon gets started, and Chrissie and her BFF Tracy (Mitchell) are taking reckless chances with drink, drugs, and bad boys. One boy, Chuck (Zegers), is particularly bad, and Chrissie narrowly avoids being assaulted by fighting back and poking his eye out with her thumb. The disfigurement dashes Chuck’s fledgling football career, and he promises to get revenge… is it the curse at work, or is Chrissie just at the center of a harmonious convergence of bad luck?
The acting is excellent, and the dialogue is good (though not as sparkling as in Ellis’ novels… perhaps he dumbed it down a bit for the teen movie audience). The story moves right along, and the characters are fun. The visuals are standard issue (cinematography and editing: nothing special), and ultimately, The Curse of Downer’s Grove doesn’t deliver as a horror film. But it’s an entertaining enough thriller and a decent time waster if there’s nothing else on.