Wednesday, March 30, 2016

CURVE (2015) [Paul's Review]

. . . Is it fate?  Is it destiny?  Nope, it's a sadistic predator with a knife! . . .
When stalked by a homicidal psychopath, do you ever pause to think: is this all my fault?  Or is this just fate?  At the center of Curve, which is in almost every other way a paper-thin and derivative thriller, is this abstract question of free will and culpability.  Don’t get me wrong, Curve ain’t a thinker by any means (e.g.  minutes into the film the cute actress is rendered shirtless by being hilariously defeated by a can of soda, followed by a meet cute with the hunky actor who, not to be outdone, loses his own shirt in what we can only imagine is sympathetic stripping).  But by making bad decisions and unlikely timing into the theme of the film, all of the individual plot contrivances seem less like flaws and more like cosmic symbolism.  

Mallory Rutledge (played by a game Julianne Hough) is having trouble taking control over her own life.  She’s driving alone across Utah on her way to marry Brad in Denver.  Nobody likes Brad.  Not Mallory’s sister, who has no faith that the wedding is actually going to happen and makes her a mix that only consists of one song: Roxette’s “Listen to your Heart.”  And not Mallory, who is pissed that Brad has cancelled their honeymoon.  So when her truck breaks down and a flirtatious stranger in an open button-down shirt (Teddy Sears) mysteriously appears on the scene, she’s ready to listen to her heart.  And her heart says, let’s get this delicious hunk of pre-marital infidelity to a motel!

On the way, while listening to Roxette (again), the hunky stranger starts talking about fate and destiny.  Wasn’t it fate that Mallory’s truck broke down just there?  Wasn’t it destiny that she took the scenic route rather than the interstate?  Mallory gazes into his dreamy blue eyes.  “FATE,” the stranger murmurs romantically, “. . . DESTINY.”  Is it fate?  Is it destiny?  Nope, it’s a sadistic predator with a knife!  

So Mallory intentionally wrecks her truck and traps herself in it in the process.  The rest of the film is her struggle to survive in the truck without food and water.  The hunky predator is fine though (is it fate? . . . destiny?) and every once in a while comes to check on Mallory and rehearse scenes from Silence of the Lambs and Saw.  Meanwhile Mallory eats a rat, listens to some Roxette (again), and otherwise passes the time for a couple of days. 

Until her phone rings!  That’s right, her phone was working the whole time, apparently buried (but how?  . . . Fate?  Destiny?), in the one place she didn’t think to search during her two days of nothing but Roxette.  She digs it up, but, at that very instant, hunky predator arrives on the scene, preventing her from calling anyone.  Doh!  That’s some bad fate and destiny right there.  Yet, why didn’t anyone try to call Mallory earlier?  

Conspiracy theories started racing through my head: maybe Mallory’s sister didn’t buy tickets for the wedding because she knows there won’t be one!  Maybe Brad cancels the honeymoon for the same reason!  Could they be in it together?  Or, maybe they didn’t call her because they just don’t like her much—I mean, there’s not a lot of information about Mallory’s likeability.  Basically, all we know about her as a person is that she was willing to commit some major Brad-infidelity, which suggests that she isn’t super accountable.

Also, in the scene voted least comfortable to watch with one’s parents, the predator offers to give her water if she tells him about the first time she had sex.  So she recounts a steamy encounter and her masturbatory fantasies.  But then he doesn’t give her the water because he knows she lied!  She told him her sister’s masturbatory fantasies (mercifully the film spares us as to how she knows these details) instead of her own, which he divines miraculously.   

What this tells us: Mallory doesn’t make good decisions (or, at least, her heart, to which she is constantly implored to listen, doesn’t).  And Mallory is fine divulging her sister’s sexual history to predators but won’t disclose her own to save her own life.  Unless her first sexual encounter was with, like, nuclear launch codes, I really can’t imagine why it was worth protecting so closely. 

And, now that I think on it, Mallory is fairly condescending to the hunky predator even when flirting with him.  Asking him about his past, she says: “you can’t always have been a hobo.”  Dude, Mallory.  Don’t call the hunky guy with perfect hair and a starched button-down who just fixed your truck and with whom you are going to cheat a “hobo.”  It makes you sound snooty, and that isn't a good sound when you’re a character in a horror movie.

So with these facts in mind, back to the question: why doesn’t anyone call Mallory when she goes missing?  Maybe it’s because they colluded to kill her.  Or maybe it’s because she’s insulting and mean and unaccountable and everyone, including Brad, was hoping that she wouldn’t show up at the wedding.  Or, of course, there’s always that third option: “FATE . . . DESTINY.”

No surprise: it’s the third option.  At least it’s consistent.  Everything in this movie just sort of happens when it needs to happen.   Mallory is about to drink her own urine when (cue FATE . . . DESTINY) it starts to rain!  Mallory is about to saw off her own leg when (FATE . . . DESTINY) her leg comes unstuck!  Everything in the film is so miraculously unlikely that when Mallory decides to postpone her escape to, on one leg and a whim, return to hunky predator’s den, it seems less a lapse of judgment than that old fate-destiny machinery grinding back into gear.   

The unbearable convenience of plot culminates in hunky predator falling out of an open window and onto, mirabile dictu, a bear trap.  A  BEAR TRAP.  It just happened to be there.  And fate gives destiny a high five. 

Questions for Joe:
1.  Brad is supposed to be rich and successful.  Yet his truck (which Mallory is driving) is an old and down-to-earth beater.  Why wouldn’t he have a nicer car?  

JD: And then there's the fact that she finds his weird strip club collector's cards under the seat. What is she supposed to think? That he drives his GMC to the strip club? And that he needs strip club cards under the seat to remember which one to go to? Is he an 80 year-old farmer?

2.  Why was the predator carrying a picture of someone else’s family in his wallet?

JD: That was presumably a picture of another family that the predator devastated with his predation, because the predator is really cancer! That's right, Curve was written by Kimberly Johnson after her battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, which as anyone can tell you, is a lot like spending four days upside down in a truck describing your sister's sex life to a sociopath.

3.  Is a mix tape with only one song on it a mix tape?

JD: Keep in mind, Mallory has an iPhone, so this is modern day. And Mallory looks like she's supposed to be about 28, meaning her younger sister is in her early 20s, making her a serious Millennial. And those folks definitely don't know what a mix tape is. So, she probably got one song on there, and was like "I did it! Mix tape success!"

4.  Why bear trap?

JD: Considering Mallory's leg was caught and bleeding, upside-down in the seat of a truck for four days, this is a form of poetic justice! Now the psycho is caught by the leg! It's like raaaaaaiiiiinnnn....

5. Do you think Mallory married Brad after all this?

JD: If the predator is cancer, what is Brad? Could he be fly in your chardonnayyyaaayyyyy!? Apparently my mix tape of references also only has one track on it.


  1. Stumbled upon this blog yesterday and just wanted to say, hey, I dig the format and style, hope you guys keep it up.

    I have been journeying through the same minefield of Netflix horror for the past 2 years so I appreciate the subject matter.

    A few suggestions if you don't mind?

    The Shrine: One of the best overall horrors I've found on NF. A bit flawed but excellent for what it is. Certainly genre and nothing geoundbreaking, but plays it's cards right and has some unique tricks up its sleeve.

    The Nightmare: Not horror per se, but a doc about people with sleep paralysis with reenactments of their nightmares and experiences. Has a paranormal cable TV show vibe but with well shot interviews and some very creepy scenes. Plays like a good b horror movie. An interesting watch from a great up and coming director. Quite spooky and some compelling storylines. A true gem.

    Circle: Similar to Saw, Exam, et al., the whole room of strangers in a bizarre predicament subgenre of horror/thriller, this one with a creative "game" albeit one with overly confusing rules. You'll love it or hate it but be entertained regardless.

    One to stay away from is At the Devil's Door, unless you want some ample comedic bad review fodder. It has it in spades.

  2. Hey thank you for the VERY FIRST COMMENT on our blog!

    *whistles, confetti, marching band parade*

    Thanks for the suggestions and encouragement. I'd heard about the sleep paralysis movie, thought it sounded awesome, and then promptly forgot about it. I'll give it a go!

    And it's good to know that there are others out there exploring the dubious gifts of streaming horror. Don't be a stranger, and do let us know about any other good finds you come across.

    I'm sure "At the Devil's Door" will be randomly assigned to us sooner or later. Sigh.

  3. Thanks for the feedback! It's encouraging to know you enjoy our blog, and that there are some pretty good movies waiting to be found. Hey, maybe The Diabolical is one of them!

    *Starts watching*

    Ah. No. No.