October 6, 2015
Kimberly Lofstrom Johnson and Lee Patterson
Julianne Hough as Mallory
Eddy Sears as Christian
Mallory (Julianne Hough of Dancing with the Stars and the Footloose remake) is leaving behind her life and her beloved sister (The Fear of Darkness’ Penelope Mitchell) in San Francisco – driving herself and her fiance’ Brad’s ancient Ford Bronco to Denver, where they’ll reunite to be married and begin their new life together. The vehicle breaks down as she takes a scenic mountain canyon road, and she’s helped out by a shirtless and hunky hitchhiker (American Horror Story’s Teddy Sears). Against her better judgement, she offers him a lift and it all seems hunky-dory as they swap life stories. Christian is not all that he seems, and in an attempt to get him out of the truck, Mallory causes the Bronco to crash through a guard-rail and land upside-down in a deep ravine. Her leg is hopelessly caught up between the seat and the door and she if effectively trapped – leaving the whack-job Christian to do as he pleases.
As our lead, Julianne Hough is genuine and likeable. All throughout the opening moments, we get a clear sense of where Mallory’s head is. She’s distracted, nervous, unsure and already regretful – as she drives onto her new destiny as a bride. She’s making the sacrifice for her soon-to-be husband, and it’s not sitting well with her. There are smaller moments which struck me as real and true – one being as she discusses her sister with Christian. It’s a tiny detail, but the way she flails her hands about as she effortlessly discloses the death of her parents and how it turned her sister into a commitment-phobe – a new boyfriend every month – well, it was authentic. It’s those kind of organic moments which confirm that your actor is able to sell. And what’s additionally fun about this over-sharing from Mallory (a notch for both Hough and the writers) is that Christian is just that easy to open up to.
Teddy Sears as Christian is extremely charming and handsome – a brilliant casting choice, as it so readily sets the audience at ease. Had he been some rundown, dirty and skeezy loner with bad hygiene, we’d have no film to speak of. We don’t really get any background on Christian. But there’s a wonderful moment when Mallory discovers a photograph in Christian’s forgotten wallet. She thinks she can use it as some sort of mind-game advantage, but the payoff is far better than what you would anticipate. Sears never takes Christian to all-out Jason Voorhees psycho-territory – Christian’s a real person after all – but we definitely fear the character.
Returning to Hough, she has to take some real risks as Mallory (Mallory’s caught up in the Bronco for at least 4 nights). Doing things that only someone like Bear Grylls would do in an everyday situation, she leads us to believe that she hates these survival moments, but that she would indeed do them. Her final choice to make is straight out of the aforementioned Gerald’s Game. But something you see coming from a mile away, alters Mallory’s fate. As far as showing us peril, Hough does a tremendous job. On her side is her raspy screams and cries for help. I can’t imagine that’s something Hough did with direction – it’s just naturally how she sounds. And her screeches are painful, realistic and heart-breaking.
There are many other lovely moments which set you up for a nostalgic trip down cliché lane, but then take you by surprise and go off in another direction. When Christian’s true nature first shines through (it’s an amazing moment in the film – even the bright sun of their first light banter falls into shade), you can’t help but be taken aback. It’s not that you don’t see it coming, it’s just shocking in its vulgarity and nastiness. Much like a similar moment in the recently reviewed Landmine Goes Click – you have to take a breath after the line and nod your head approvingly to the writers – before letting yourself back into the story. Nice work!
The film’s beautifully shot, capturing the gorgeous landscapes and treacherous mountain-sides of southern California (sitting in for Mallory’s ultimate destination – Colorado).
As for scares, there are a few worthy of a good jump. One particular fright brought me a fair amount of attention from those in the theatre around me.
I enjoyed the film. It’ll never find its way to any all-time favorite lists of mine, but it’s a solid and compact little thriller with likeable and attractive actors, tense sequences and a lead character with an understandable and sympathetic journey. We don’t get any hints as to Mallory’s future following the climax – but we know that she’ll never go back to doing things to please others. It’s nice to know that through this ordeal, she’s grown as a woman and as a human being. If that doesn’t entice you to take a gander at Curve, then what are you looking for?
Curve comes to us from director Iain Softley (Hackers, K-Pax, The Skeleton Key) and Universal and Blumhouse Tilt – and shows a release date of October 6th – so check out your favorite VOD source and give it a go – just take the curves a little slower if you know what’s good for you.