Movie Review: “The Curse of Downer’s Grove”


Bret “Less Than Zero/American Psycho” Easton Ellis never quite got over the ’80s.

You can see it in every movie he has a hand in, since that’s where the novelist seems to make his rent money these days.  He’s not even doing adaptations (“The Rules of Attraction”) any more. Crap like “The Canyons” is where he dwells, all young and beautiful white folk getting into sexual and pharmaceutical trouble, ennui upon ennui.

“The Curse of Downer’s Grove” has to represent some sort of nadir for the onetime ’80s icon. It’s a Godawful thriller with a supernatural come-on, a dead teenager movie with the B.E.E. stamp of sordid approval.

The aptly-named Downer’s Grove (Illinois, of course) is where Chrissy Swanson (Bella Heathcote of “Dark Shadows”) lives and goes to school. Dad’s a meth head who abandoned her, her brother and mom (one-time Supergirl Helen Slater). Ellis has updated the drug problem of choice, you think. But yes, cocaine makes an appearance later.

“The suburbs are the ghettos of the meaningless,” Chrissy narrates. And we’re bored already.

Her high school seems cursed. Every year, some graduating senior dies just before graduation. Forget “Maybe it won’t happen this year.” Chrissy is all “See you guys later,” “Maybe you WON’T.”

With her equally skinny-gorgeous pal Tracy (Penelope Mitchell), Chrissy tests the limits of teen immortality by hitting a party with some pushy jocks, led by Chuck (Kevin Zegers). When Chuck tries a little date rape, Chrissy almost gouges one of his eyes out. And it’s on.

He stalks, he threatens, his beats up. Can Chrissy defend herself, or will her mechanic beau Bobby (Lucas Till, of “Bravetown” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) stop flipping his perfect hair long enough to administer a beatdown?

The violence escalates, and the cops want nothing to do with it. No adults do. Ellis might have reached for some comment on cops protecting jocks, but that’s beyond his experience. Apparently.

Meanwhile, “The Curse” is sort of tossed aside. For a long while.

Downer’s Grove is all “What’s a girl like you want with a grease monkey like me?” Plainly, she’s been eyeing the vintage Plymouth Duster, and other muscle cars in the garage where Bobby and Bobby alone presides.

“Curse of Downer’s Grove” is so awful it’s no fair to lay it all at the feet of the c0-writer, who didn’t direct or cast this disaster, after all. There are nightmare montages hinting at “The Indian burial ground” the town was built on, the violence to come. The pretty young things doing the acting make us feel that at least they weren’t blessed with talent to go with their runway-ready looks.

Tom Arnold has a psychotic “Friday Night Lights” scene — a single scene, mercifully — beating up his quarterback-son for getting his eye poked out and future ruined.  Boys nobly face life-threatening beatings to spare their lady loves.

And in 85 minutes or so, we can stop trying to gouge our own eyes out. Our ears? Too late to save them from this tripe.

MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, drug use, profanity

Cast: Bella Heathcote, Lucas Till, Kevin Zegers, Penelope Mitchell
Credits: Directed by Derick Martini, , script by Bret Easton Ellis and Derick Martini. An Anchor Bay/Starz release.

Running time: 1:28

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