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The Curse of Downers Grove (2015)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/1/2015

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/28/2015

On a daily basis, I wonder if there is a point to most advertising. When you hear the name of the company which sponsors the stadium in your town, does that make you want to go out and buy it? What about the banners which whiz by on the side of buses? Are those products going on your shopping list? The same goes for movie advertising. Trailers are often hit or miss, as we all know, but what about the other promotions, specifically the "From the _____ of" variety. We see a lot of "From the Producers of" ads, which typically mean nothing in real life. The Curse of Downers Grove comes complete with a "From the author of the novel American Psycho" tag. That will be sure to lure some in. And boy, will they be sorry.

The high school seniors in the little town of Downers Grove feel that they are cursed. Ever since the new school opened, a senior has died before graduation. Chrissie (Bella Heathcote) is now a senior, but she doesn't believe in the curse -- she chalks it up to a bunch of stupid kids who made stupid decisions. As graduation day approaches, instead of focusing on the curse, Chrissie would rather spend time with her best friend, Tracy (Penelope Mitchell), and thinking about Bobby (Lucas Till), a local mechanic she likes. Against her better judgment, Chrissie accompanies Tracy to a party in the neighboring town, where she is assaulted by Chuck (Kevin Zegers). Wounded, Chuck now plots his revenge against Chrissie and her friends. As Chrissie's mom (Helen Slater) is out of town and she's been left home alone with her brother (Martin Spanjers), she must find a way to defend herself against Chuck.

OK, let's go ahead and dispense with the misconceptions about The Curse of Downers Grove. First of all, Brett Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho, and several other controversial novels, did not write this film. The movie is based on a novel by Michael Hornburg. Ellis is credited with co-authoring the screenplay with Director Derick Martini. So, did Ellis have some creative input into the story? Of course, but the cover art is clearly implying that this movie is based on one of his novels, and it isn't. Secondly, this is not a horror film, despite what the title and the trailer may imply. The trailer makes it look as if something supernatural is at work here, and the film's opening sequence reinforces this. But, we soon learn that this is certainly not a horror film.

So, what is The Curse of Downers Grove? It's a throwback to 80s thrillers like The New Kids in which high school students suddenly become embroiled in violence. It's also a terrible movie. I have not read the source novel, but it has to be better than this illogical and mean-spirited movie. Again, the opening, which feels as if it comes from a completely different movie, focuses on the deaths of seniors in the past, and offers a somewhat creative montage which recounts these events. But, the tone changes and the first sign of trouble arises when Chrissie's mother goes out of town with her new boyfriend the week that her daughter is graduating from high school. Perhaps this is meant to reinforce how selfish her mom is, but it's never played that way. Then Chuck (who is 31 in real life) attacks Chrissie (who is 28 in real life) and we are left to think, "I thought that this was about high school kids." Once this attack takes place, the movie suddenly changes to an action-thriller in which Chuck and his friends attack Chrissie and her friends, culminating in a violent siege at a party.

In case you haven't guessed, the result is a movie which is incredibly uneven and constantly shifts in tone. It starts out looking like a Final Destination clone, moves into a high-school chick flick, and then becomes something like Ms. 45. As if this weren't bad enough, each scene is more illogical than the last. When Chuck approaches Chrissie after the attack, she talks to him as if they simply had a disagreement. Similarly, Chuck shows up when Chrissie and Bobby are together and Bobby talks to Chuck as if they finishing a Craigs List transaction. Why doesn't anyone fully realize that Chuck is a psycho. The second half of the film devolves into a ridiculous orgy of violence in which Chuck and his friends go to great lengths and break many laws, simply to get back at Chrissie for spurning him. The movie clearly takes place in a world where no one thinks of consequences.

I hate to sound like the late Gene Siskel, but The Curse of Downers Grove is one of those movies which had great potential but squandered it. It could have been supernatural thriller about a cursed school. It could have taken a serious look at how teenaged girls react after they've been attacked. It could have explored how Chrissie and her brother feel about their mom going off and leaving them. Instead, it decided to be some sort of reverse Death Wish and stupid, unlikable characters who can't seem to stay out of trouble. Believe me, the curse is real and anyone who sees this movie is the victim.

The Curse of Downers Grove is very vague with its eye-gouging diagnosis on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is good and the level of detail is admirable. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The opening montages deliver notable surround and stereo effects, with the sound moving from side-to-side and from back-to-front with notable detail. These moments also provide impressive subwoofer effects.

The lone extra on The Curse of Downers Grove Blu-ray Disc is "Behind the Scenes of The Curse of Downers Grove" (5 minutes). This brief piece offers a very simple reel of "fly on the wall" footage which shows various scenes being shot, but does not offer any comments from the cast or crew.

Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long