The Curse of Downers Grove
dir Derick Martini
scr Bret Easton Ellis, Derick Martini
prd Jason Dubin, Oren Segal, Chiara Trento
with Bella Heathcote, Lucas Till, Kevin Zegers, Penelope Mitchell, Mark L Young, Martin Spanjers, Helen Slater, Tom Arnold, Zane Holtz, Jeff Staron, Marcus Giamatti, Sean Rosales
release US 21.Aug.15
15/US Myriad 1h30
The Curse of Downers Grove
What a downer: Mitchell and Heathcote

till zehers slater
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Curse of Downers Grove The usual teen shenanigans are given a bleak edge in this grisly drama, although the film's violence and drug use never amount to much. Instead, the film seems to wallow in thoughts of doom and gloom as a small town prepares for its high school's graduation day.

Every year in Downers Grove, a senior dies in the week before graduation. With just five days left, Diane (Slater) takes a holiday with her astronaut boyfriend (Giamatti), leaving her graduating daughter Chrissie (Heathcote) home with cheeky brother Dave (Spanjers), who has a crush on her best friend Tracy (Mitchell). Chrissie doesn't believe in the curse. She likes drop-out mechanic Bobby (Till), but agrees to accompany Tracy to a party with Chuck and Guy (Zegers and Holtz), cool boys from another school. And things take a scary turn, leading to an escalating cycle of revenge.

The curse casts a long shadow over the usual teenage pre-graduation antics, as everyone is wondering who will die this year, and how. Meanwhile, the usual partying, tortured relationships and sexual experimentation continue. Amid this, Chrissie seems unusually grounded, too sensible to be hanging out with her big-haired airhead buddies. But then, she also seems too old; Heathcote is 28, which is the average age of actors playing teens in this film. Otherwise, they're all solid in their roles.

Director Martini overeggs everything with creepy cutaways and slow-motion, seemingly trying to evoke feelings of a whodunit or slasher movie. But this is actually a hip teen drama that mingles questions about love, sex and the future with a sense of impending danger. Even the lighter, sillier scenes turn nasty for no real reason. Which makes it tricky to find someone to identify with. Everyone seems oddly cold, including Chrissie, and they all turn to violence to solve problems and express their feelings.

This odd obsession with grisliness slowly turns the film from its promising opening into something rather pointless. Yes, it touches cleverly on small-town issues like boredom and the pressure to escape, plus tensions between students and drop-outs and rival schools. But the script never makes much of the idea that the curse is a manifestation of fears about growing up. Instead, it randomly turns to the idea of history righting itself, as the town was built on land stolen from natives. As if the point is that all of America is cursed.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 5.Aug.15

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