Starring Julianne Hough, Teddy Sears, Madalyn Horcher, Drew Rausch
Directed by Iain Softley
Mallory (Hough) is travelling alone, cross-country en route to her own wedding. Given that she seems to be having second thoughts about the whole thing, it’s unsurprising that she decides to take the canyon-side scenic route. Along the way, her car breaks down – leading to her meeting with enigmatic hiker Christian (Sears).
Christian’s an affable kind of guy, walking the mountains on an annual trek in respect of his late father. As thanks, Mallory offers him a lift which, after a little prodding, he duly accepts. With the pair heading for a break at a rest stop a few minutes down the road, the situation takes a dark turn as Christian reveals that he isn’t so friendly after all…
In fact, he’s a serial murderer – and he intends to take Mallory to the (long abandoned) rest stop so that he can have his sadistic way with her.
Seeing no other option, Mallory takes the initiative and drives her vehicle straight off the edge of the cliff. Trapped in the wreckage, and failing in her mission to kill Christian through vehicular homicide, Mallory is forced to endure a number of days inside the upturned wreck, battling hunger, the elements… and Christian, who returns on occasion to play with his new toy.
Curve gets off to a good start, with an absorbing opening act that truly delivers The Hitcher-type chills when Christian’s true face is revealed. Teddy Sears is great in these moments, letting the threatening nature of his antagonist suddenly slash through the veneer with unsettling relish. It’s a compelling build-up, punctuated by the car’s crash into the unknown.
Unfortunately, what looks like a taut, gripping thriller also runs off-track at the same time.
Going forward, Christian lapses into a villainous caricature – returning occasionally to spout life lessons at his trapped plaything, labouring the point of her weakness of character (clearly not wishing to go through with her wedding, but not having the guts to stop it) again and again. Thankfully, Hough’s performance during the survival-based second act balances this tedium with her own acting strength while director Softley works in the occasional bout of well crafted tension.
But it isn’t enough to keep Curve from wearing thin quite rapidly. Pacing suffers greatly as the second act wears on in an all-too-familiar manner – demonstrating Mallory’s gradual growth from victim to determined survivor, ready to take the fight to the bad guy. Things finally pick up with the introduction of a policeman in a scene fraught with roadside tension… only to see Curve take yet another turn into sadly clichéd territory for the final act.
In its home stretch, Curve gleefully joins the ranks of countless other psycho-thrillers as the heroic survivor turns the tables on her would-be killer, who is of course now relegated to the generic position of Mr. Crazy Shouty Man Who Can Take a Lot of Punishment. It’s all presented with finesse, sure – it’s well lensed and Softley shows definite skill behind the camera – but Curve winds up being little more than a thoroughly vanilla timewaster, reeking of squandered potential by the time all is said and done.
So even though it’s a decent enough watch in its own right, Curve ultimately offers little reason not to just give The Hitcher another spin, or perhaps 127 Hours if you’re more interested in the survival element but crave greater depth in your drama.