Blu-ray Review: ‘The Curse Of Downers Grove’

Review by James McDonald

A teen angst thriller at a high school gripped by an apparent curse that claims the life of a senior every year. Story follows a senior, Chrissie, who is skeptical, and another, Tracy, who believes that she may be the next victim.

“The Curse of Downers Grove” starts off promisingly. As we are introduced to the heroine of the story, Chrissie (Bella Heathcote), through her narration, we discover that the small town of Downers Grove, seemingly has a curse on it. Apparently, the high school was built on sacred Indian burial ground and as a result, a senior from the school has died every year since. Chrissie is skeptical and claims that each of the students who died, in most cases, were partly responsible for their own demise, a result of either being drunk, getting high or both and then proceeding to climb a water tower, losing their balance in the process. While the end of the school year is only a few days away, the whole town is apprehensive, anticipating the inevitable circumstance that transpires every year.

Wanting to get away from the seriousness engulfing the town, Chrissie and her best friend Tracy (Penelope Mitchell), are approached by Chuck (Kevin Zegers), the star quarterback of the high school at the next town and invited to a party over there. Initially hesitant, Chrissie decides to follow them as she thinks Chuck is cute but once they arrive, he manages to get her alone where upon refusing his advances, he then sexually assaults her. Forced to retaliate, she pushes her finger into his right eye, causing immediate blindness and then manages to get away. Both her and Tracy head home where they agree to never speak of the incident again but seeing that Chuck cannot play football any more, a result of his blindness, he decides to even the score.

In the beginning, he pops up at her high school, stating that he is willing to forgive her if she agrees to go out with him but she refuses whereby his future visits result in family members and friends succumbing to verbal threats and eventually, physical violence. With her mother out of town with her boyfriend, her brother Dave (Martin Spanjers) and Tracy decide to throw a party, to try and lighten the mood but once the sun goes down and the power goes off, Chuck and his gang infiltrate the house with only one objective in mind: to kill Chrissie and anybody else who gets in their way. The problem with the movie is that when is starts out, it gives the impression that it is going to be a ghost story, with the school having being built on sacred ground and high school seniors dying every year.

Based on this premise alone, it would have made for a much more intriguing story but as the film progresses, we realize that it is basically a revenge story. Chuck wants Chrissie but when she refuses, he tries to rape her but not before she fights back, injuring him in the process. He doesn’t see his actions as reprehensible, in his mind, he wanted her so that means that she must have wanted him and the fact that he’s the star quarterback, and has probably never been turned down by any other girl, means that he is also egotistical and self-absorbed. Characters do things throughout the film that are absurd and moronic. Right after Dave has his arm and hand broken by Chuck and his gang, the next day he decides to throw a party along with Tracy.

It never seems to cross their minds that it would be the ideal situation for Chuck to appear but they surmise that it will put Chrissie at ease and make her feel better. Chrissie’s boyfriend Bobby (Lucas Till), decides to take the fight to Chuck and his cronies by appearing at their place only to have them beat the crap out of him. In Downers Grove, there must be something in the water that causes people to behave unintelligibly because logic it seems, does not exist in this part of the world. Even in a horror movie, there has to be some semblance of intelligence and rationality, otherwise, what is the point if everyone is going to behave incompetently? It gives you nothing and no one to root for and sort of defeats the whole purpose.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand September 1st.

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