Downers Grove, Illinois, is a typical midwestern town with a twist: “The Curse.” Before the end of every school year, graduation ceremonies are ultimately deferred due to the death of a high school senior under sudden, and often violent circumstances. For Chrissie Swanson, as the final week before graduation draws near, the specter of The Curse seems to stalk her every move… it seems to be not a matter of if, but when she’ll become its next victim.
The Curse of Downers Grove is a movie inspired by true events, and is based on the novel “Downers Grove.” For fans of the horror genre, the movie is an exciting addition to any DVD collection… so long as the title of the film is ignored, as the title ‘curse’ is more an afterthought in this film than a focal point of the story.
The film begins with Chrissie Swanson and her best friend, Tracy, partying with some kids the previous year. They bear witness as, days before graduation, a senior boy climbs the water tower while drunk and falls to his death. Flash forward a year, where Chrissie and Tracy are both seniors with less than a week until graduation. Speculation is rampant about who the next victim of “The Curse” will be, and Chrissie refuses to take part in it. She believes the Curse is superstition, and scoffs at all mention of it.
As the days tick down until graduation, events are put in motion: when Chrissie is assaulted at a party full of older kids by a college boy from another county named Chuck, she takes out his eye in self defense. Obsessed, Chuck stalks her, attacks her loved ones, and threatens her both in the name of revenge, and in the name of a delusional belief that they’re meant to be together. Together with her younger brother, her best friend, and the local mechanic she’s started dating, Chrissie finds herself locked in a fight for survival not against the Curse, but against the threat of Chuck and his gang of drug addict buddies who obey his every order with blind, sadistic pleasure. Hell bent on making Chrissie pay for the loss of his eye, Chuck leads his crew to go up against Chrissie and her friends in a swift and brutal showdown which will either break the Curse for good, or make Chrissie its next victim.
While the landscape of the movie is a little on the bleak and colorless side, the vibrant characters more than make up for that. In fleeting moments and harvested crumbs of exposition, even the antagonist, Chuck, becomes a relatable character that earns more than a little sympathy without losing any of the qualities that make him such a perfect villain. The acting is superb, and most noteworthy is Lucas Till as the grease monkey boyfriend. His performance is exceptional, and he vanishes into the role so well it was easy to forget his work as Alex Summers, aka Havok, in the X-Men movie franchise.
The film ends with a startling twist that is highly satisfying if you like a good shock to go with your suspense, but ultimately the framework of the Curse is shaky at best. In the end, the plot device broadens into an esoteric, soul-searching critique of the human condition and the existence of God, which robs the movie of its appeal as a gritty thriller, trying to shove it into the framework of a horror when there’s plenty for it to survive on its own.
A fair amount of frankly needless gore goes along with the plot framework to try and make this a viable horror movie. Along with watching Chuck’s eye get put out, we see him trying to patch it up in the bathroom. There are also several montage scenes thrown in representing Chrissie’s nightmares about the curse, and some ham-handed and very vague references to either the town or the school being built on sacred Native American burial grounds.
In the end, the DVD is worth the investment… just don’t expect too many supernatural thrills from this one. If teen angst and a good stalker thriller is your cup of tea, however, you have my word: you will not be disappointed.
The Curse of Downers Grove
Actors: Kevin Zegers, Tom Arnold, Lucas Till, Bella Heathcote, Penelope Mitchell
Directors: Derick Martini
Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
DVD Release Date: September 1, 2015
Run Time: 89 minutes