The Curse of Downers Grove (2015) Poster

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3/10
A hopelessly incompetent and irrelevant horror film
StevePulaski1 September 2015
I've lived less than five minutes away from the town of Downers Grove, Illinois my entire life, even going to high school there and finding myself going there for one thing or another on an almost daily basis. It's a remarkably unremarkable town, but it's one with everything one could need - a grocery store, a library, several parks, roomy middle-class housing, great schools, and low crime. It's the perfect setting for a horror film for the very fact that there's little that happens there and you'd be hard-pressed to hear the terms "breaking news" and "Downers Grove" in the same sentence.

This is ostensibly why The Curse of Downers Grove has created such a buzz in my community over the last few weeks, with news of its release spreading through the neighborhood like wildfire. However, I was usually the one to crush the hopes of local residents and friends by telling them that the film, in fact, isn't shot in Downers Grove, or anywhere in Illinois for that matter, but in California, in a town that is so valley-centric and coastal that it doesn't even mirror the sleepy, middle- class roots of Downers Grove. Right off the bat, that voids a lot of the film's credibility; why even use a specific location for a story and not even shoot the film in that location?

Turns out, the film is based off of Downers Grove, a teen novel by Michael Hornburg, who grew up in Downers Grove, Illinois and attended Downers Grove South High School, claiming to have seen numerous classmates die from strange occurrences over his years. In present day, I haven't heard anything about "the curse of Downers Grove," which leads me to believe, unlike high-profile Illinois curses depicted in films like Munger Road, this "curse" was simply something Hornburg could use as the basis for a novel set in his hometown. We haven't started talking about the film, and already, it seems to be bask in its own irrelevance.

The Curse of Downers Grove, indeed, is a bad film, for more reasons than its false setting and entirely fictitious curse, which could apply to any town anywhere in the United States or the world. It's a film so hokey and ugly, without a shred of an idea of what it's supposed to do as a film, that rather than function as a horror film, or even a competent thriller, it settles for middle-of-the-road, soap- opera production and comes off like a dark Lifetime murder mystery.

"The Curse of Downers Grove" is the justification for strange occurrences that always plague the graduating classes of Downers Grove High School (a school which doesn't exist in real life, mind you), where a member from the graduating class dies every year in some freak accident. With that, we focus on Chrissie (Bella Heathcoate), who believes the curse is a big hoax. When her mother (Helen Slater) goes out of town, however, she is left in charge of her younger brother (Martin Spanjers) and to her own devices. She decides to go to a party with her best friend Tracy (Penelope Mitchell), where she subsequently winds up being cornered by the star football player Chuck (Kevin Zegers) and nearly raped before she can fight back and poke Chuck's eye literally out.

Now, Chuck's future as a football player is ruined and his entire existence shamed by his abusive father (Tom Arnold, who does some strong work at being menacing and downright vicious). Chuck is out for revenge against Chrissie, and because his father is a former cop, he's practically untouchable. He resorts to vandalism and taunting her, and she resorts to seeking comfort in the well-meaning but offbeat neighbor-boy Bobby (Lucas Till), all while trying to get Chuck and his football goons to leave her and her friends alone on the week of graduation, when "the curse" usually strikes.

The first problem is editor Kayla Pagliarini seems to have so little confidence in the audience that she resorts to spelling out who to keep an eye on during the film and who appears unsettling through glossy and unwarranted editing tricks, particularly on one character, which just about ruins any credible mystery the film had. In addition, director Derick Martini and writer Bret Easton Ellis can't seem to figure out how they want to position this story. At first, with the commentary about the curse and its effect on people, it seems as if this film will be another Final Destination-esque teen thriller. It isn't until the film gets going, however, that you see it has little to do with the actual curse of the town, but with this side-story of Chrissie angering the football star and getting put in danger because of it.

Martini and Ellis have no clue on how they want to tackle this story, be it through paranormalities, teen drama, mystery, or what-have-you, so the result is a film that's dreary and unfocused. The Curse of Downers Grove is about as limp and fickle as a horror film can be, as its plot moves along at a miserably slow pace, despite only being seventy-eight minutes long, and its characters are largely faceless.

Absent of all tension, void of any compelling characters, loaded with undeveloped red herrings, and terribly misguided in its plot, The Curse of Downers Grove's only hope for long-term impact is the fact that it features the name of a close-knit Illinois town. However, because it wasn't even shot in said town, and formulates no connection to the roads, the landmarks, the people, or the foundation of Downers Grove, that part also has a very slim chance of making this out to be anything other than a seriously lame, irrelevant teen thriller.

Starring: Bella Heathcote, Penelope Mitchell, Lucas Till, Kevin Zegers, Martin Spanjers, Helen Slater, and Tom Arnold. Directed by: Derick Martini.
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8/10
Really Good Teen Thriller
Mrssmiff15 May 2016
Not sure why so many gave this movie a bad review and low rating. For me, it was exactly what I expected it to be - a high school thriller, with a good story, credible performances etc. It wasn't what I expected but that was due to the title, trailer and premise of the film focusing on the "curse", when in fact, in my opinion, there is a whole other story portrayed. Had it been titled something other than it was, perhaps more people would have appreciated it more?

The performances from Bella Heathcote and Kevin Zegers were spot on. Other reviewers have focused on their real ages with regards to playing high school/college students but that is par for the course in movies these days.

All in all, an enjoyable movie if you like high school drama.
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7/10
Surprisingly good Araki-esque darkly humorous thriller
SeanBatemanJr10 September 2015
I knew this movie was co-written by Bret Easton Ellis but didn't expect much - I really hated the title, the IMDb score for this film was very low (which in retrospect seems really sad) and for a host of reasons I thought it was just a journeyman project for Ellis and it would be some kind of standard forgettable slasher.

The first thing I noticed was that screenplay was very literary and contained a lot of recognizable deliberate sentences and mean humor of Bret Ellis (sometimes it got a little too much, i think meth is mentioned like 3 or 4 times in the first 10 minutes of the movie). Then I noticed how surprisingly good the acting in this movie was. In the end a lot of elements in this movie were familiar but delivered with a slight twist and hence worked for me.

The mix of lo-fi look, acting style, dark humor and menacing atmosphere reminded me most of Gregg Araki movies like "Nowhere" but more plot-driven (another reviewer mentioned some stylistic similarities to "Donnie Darko" and "It Follows", but I think Araki movies are the closest comparison). Araki, of course, was influenced by Bret Easton Ellis and was probably the closest cinematic analogue of his prose.

I think it's a shame that in our age of faceless mass-produced genre movies this one, which has a discernible style, has such criminally low IMDb rating and recommend it.
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2/10
Please, Sir, no more
michael-320421 September 2016
In many ways, this is the kind of horror movie that Wes Craven's "Scream" was supposed to put on notice, making the case that you can't get away with stupid, thinly drawn, overly sexualized adolescent characters who seem not to have a clue about anything around them. I guess no one told director/co-writer Derick Martini or co-writer Bret Easton Ellis how ridiculous making such a clueless film would be in 2015. Not that the film itself would have been any better in 1989, but the act of creating it wouldn't have seemed so inane.

There is, at least, an intriguing premise -- that the curse of Downer's Grove is the death of one graduating high school senior each year. Exploring whether the curse is real, in horror movie terms, might have been interesting, or whether it is connected to some kind of revenge of the natives who once occupied the land. This is hinted at but never explored. But this film is too scattered to do that, instead dropping vague references to drug problems (never really explored or taken seriously) and thwarted ambitions of abusive fathers (never really explored or taken seriously). Everything and every character here is a cliché. It would be one thing if they started out as clichés and developed into characters we might care about, but they don't develop at all. It is perhaps unfair to criticize the performers because, really, what could they do with this junk?, but they are mostly pretty bad. Some of those whose work I'm a little familiar with, like Kevin Zegers, Lucas Till and Tom Arnold, have been much better elsewhere, so I'm prepared to believe that most of the rest can be better than their work here would indicate. Hopefully, this will be a resume low-light for them, rather than a career suicide. But if the pedestrian direction in any indication, Martini himself shouldn't get many more chances to badly mishandle any material at all.
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8/10
What narcissistic reviewers!
aapscifi-9332027 August 2015
It amazes me how so many people posting reviews obviously have so little experience in the genres they review. As for winning Oscars and selling out theaters no this is not for you. As an individual who watches almost anything horror or fantasy they can get their hands I was VERY pleasantly surprised by this film. It brought to mind a blend of Donnie Darko and It Follows, not reaching the heights of either film but portraying a feeling of the atmosphere that both did so well. Sifting through Indies of this genre with no prior knowledge of the film you are watching can be very disappointing. I would say that one out of every 30 would come close to the quality of this film. The acting was great all around minus Tom Arnold, if you want to name drop you can do MUCH better even on a small budget. I especially liked Penelope Mitchell (also from Hemlock Grove, great series). IF you are a fan of this genre give this one a chance it may surprise you, If you're an Oscar hoe rewatch The Iron Lady and stay off the boards of Indies
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8/10
A fine movie that doesn't want to be categorized
the_bluesman10 July 2016
I seem to be one of the few who really enjoys this movie, even its editing, which others seem to hate. 'The Curse of Downers Grove' has a quite unique style of story-telling and doesn't fit into any traditional genre. It's a mixture of mystery, high school dramedy and revenge action thriller with an appealing cast led by the ever charming Bella Heathcote and a terrific Kevin Zegers. The whole cast was assembled aptly and it includes a couple of well-known faces.

'Downers Grove' seems to be advertised as a horror movie, but it's not, although there are a couple of quite gory scenes in it. This movie definitely is different from most others in many ways, much like director Derick Martini's previous effort 'Hick.' The latter movie is also one that polarizes very much. Many love it, many hate it. I enjoyed 'Hick' a lot and think that 'Downers Grove' is equally good and even more ambitious in some ways. The movie is a bit on the short side for my taste, but that is only a minor issue.

I really don't understand why 'Downers Grove' is generally rated very low. The ludicrous score of 4.5/10 on IMDb at the moment certainly does't do the movie that I have seen justice. I very much look forward to Derick Martini's next project, whatever it may be.
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1/10
mediocre teenge drama
sunsunboston21 August 2015
mediocre. I feel like the creators had no idea where to go with the plot. thats why they have piled up whatever they had to make it neither horror, neither suspense,maybe another tasteless teens drama. Don't waste your time.

I didn't understand why they state that it is based on true events even though it is obvious that it is a loose adaptation of the book with the same name. I was hoping that Brett Eston Ellis would make a screenplay worth his name but dissappoiningly i bought into his name, which was the only good part about this flick.

i would give it ero if this option was available
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2/10
The Curse of Incoherence
ignoratushominis8 May 2016
This movie had potential, but this potential was murdered by the curse of incoherence, such as countless other potentials in countless other movies.

The story starts out well, and then you wait for something to happen, and you wait some more, but nothing really happens. At the end, your brain tells you that things make sense, but they really don't, the ending would be suitable for another movie.

The acting is below average, the lead actress is cold and distant, which makes it hard to identify with her. The "villain" is weak and unconvincing, and Tom Arnold, well, i have no idea what he's doing in this movie taking this role.

The directing is promising, maybe if the director makes another attempt with a better script, he would probably avoid falling for the curse of incoherence. I don't recommend this film to anyone, unless they want to study it as an example of faulty filmmaking.
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1/10
The Only Thing Cursed Is This Movie
soulcrisis2820 October 2021
What a pretentious piece of crap movie. There is absolutely NOTHING to do with a curse. This is a lifetime movie about stalking, rape, and corrupt small town cops. It should've been called Rapey Stalker.

So, don't go into this movie expecting some teen horror about some mythical curse cause you'll be sorely let down.
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6/10
not really the expected teen horror
SnoopyStyle10 September 2017
In the small town of Downers Grove, Illinois, there is a well-known curse of one high school senior dying every year before graduation. Chrissie Swanson (Bella Heathcote) fights off football jock Chuck (Kevin Zegers) during a party and gouges out his eye. She has a crush on Bobby (Lucas Till). Her weird neighbor Ian is a friend. Her best friend Tracy is planning to throw a wild party with her little brother. It's days before graduation.

Bella is a beauty with striking blue eyes. Her acting ability is functional. The same can be said of Lucas Till. He's beautiful with functional acting abilities. Zegers is growing into his villain phase although he's too old to play a teen. Actually, Bella is almost the same age but she can play younger. I can do without Tom Arnold even if he does fine here. This sets up a teen horror of some sorts. It's not the highest quality but it does have potential. The major problem is that the premise does not lead to a series of kills. The bigger potential is the mystery but it becomes an action thriller anyways. The 'curse' becomes a side issue and the reveal is not that surprising. The central premise might as well be forgotten.
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5/10
It wasn't quite what I expected...but not terrible.
ravenhair70219 June 2020
I always look at the other reviews before I make mine, not that it influences my review, but just to see what others thought. First off, this movie bombed so hard, it hit the basement. 2 Mil to make and worldwide, it made a little over 33 thousand. Yikes. As far as putting this movie in the horror category, Eh, no. I'd have to agree with some reviewers that this more of a revenge movie. I'm a big fan of Lucas Till, who plays in one of my favorite shows, MacGyver. It was good to see at least one person I recognize in this film. I've seen much worse, let me tell you. I was at the very least surprised by the ending. Gotta say, I did NOT see that coming. All in all, it wasn't terrible, but not something i would recommend to a friend to watch. Peace. P.S. I don't normally do this, but I LOVE one reviewers comment about "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." That was freaking funny!
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7/10
Misleading title
ElisaX21 August 2015
I'm not really into horror but still wanted to watch this movie because of Lucas Till. He's one of my favorite actors and he is great in this movie.

The movie is good, better than expected actually. But I think the title is a bit misleading. It should have been about the curse but most of the action has nothing to do with it. I'm not saying the script is not good, it's just that the title suggests something else.

The acting is good, the cast is good as well except for Bella Heathcote. Sorry but she's not my favorite. I would've chosen someone else. The rating is good so far so let's hope I'm the only one who does not like Bella Heathcote.
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4/10
What?
ericdhall7729 October 2020
Okay, this may be based off a book by the guy who wrote "American Psycho" but this was indeed amateurish and humdrum.

What "curse"? Seriously, where was this curse?

The only thing I can give a great performance score for is Kevin Zegers 7/10. The female lead? Holy crap! Did she just finish film school?! She was monotone the entire movie. She was almost painful to watch.

The script? Whoever wrote this movie needs to go back to film school and finish their degree.

This was utter chaos and cheap. There is zero suspense and the plot twist was obvious, to me. This movie was all over. It will certainly curse anyone who watches this with the fact you can't get those minutes of your life back.
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4/10
Well made but very boring, then a bit stupid
thekarmicnomad20 October 2016
Every year a senior dies before graduation. This is the curse. A girl living in Downers Grove gets into an auticattion with another student on the lead up to graduation.

This has good production, good characters and great acting. The problem? It is as boring as hell.

The story is one of the most pedestrian I have ever come across. Yet despite its dullness manages not to be believable.

Without spoiling I would say that the supernatural element is very light.

The director and actors deserve more but this is just to dull to contemplate.
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3/10
What did I just watch?
salviolog3 February 2016
The Curse of Downers Grove would probably have been an OK by-the-book revenge/payback thriller with elements of home invasion in line with I Spit On Your Grave and An Eye For An Eye... if it wasn't for the absolutely out of nowhere W.T.F. ending, which just leaves you wondering what the hell that was all about. Without giving out any spoilers, the general feeling The Curse of Downer Grove leaves you with is as if you were reading a decent Stephen King book which for some reason ended with a sentence "And then they all got naked and started farting on each other". You might have enjoyed the rest of the text, but the way it ends would just leave you wondering just what exactly went wrong there.
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6/10
I did really enjoy this film altogether...But,yet summed up,I'm not quite sure it fits general "criteria" for calling it a part of the Horror Genre type of a flick
InfinateANGELzPORTALz12 October 2015
Firstly,I do my best to Not give any spoilers away yet not label it as possibly havin any "Spoilers",so I stick to not saying much more than the film description.I ALSO used the terms "summed up",to kind of indirectly give others the general gist(in my opinion)of just a portion said by Steve Pulaski,in the review,that was a rather long one.But he made a valid point of whether or not this film is to be "labeled" as a Horror movie,rather than just a Mystery Thriller Drama.It was really the only thing I either missed,or that in my opinion it didn't meet the Horror.I will say that we all have our opinions also of what Horror film "guidelines"they should at least meet,&also at least a minimal that makes'em Horror flicks-good or bad when it comes down to movie making&how well the horror parts were as well.

Although,Throughout this whole movie it definitely was not bad,And the actors did rather good as well,too!When I'd read the description & thought it potentially seemed to be a good movie.I wasn't entirely disappointed in thinking while watching the film had a good story line,it was well done movie,not all over the place but flowed rather well.I did really find it to be entertaining to watch!

That all being said without giving anything away,I do hope other give this a try,as everyone's opinion is different.You may agree with me,or not,but I hope you watch and enjoy it at least alittle too!!
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1/10
Sucks ASS!
sandybeard-9472525 October 2020
This is the lamest movie ever!!! It's boring, slow, and the actors overact when they shouldn't and they show no emotions when ever they should. It's just a major waste of time!! Ughhh I'm screaming because I am disappointed- I had such high hopes for this movie. SN: it's like watching a really bad Lifetime movie.
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3/10
Why?
randyunseen22 October 2020
Why did you spend $2 million on a movie with such a horrible script? Why didn't the director direct? I really tried to like this movie. It's just didn't go anywhere and I could care less about the horrible actors. Don't ever film a movie until you have a good script...
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10/10
What a great movie
bobbysipek10 October 2020
I love this movie. It one of the coolest things I've ever seen
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2/10
Tedious False Advertising
alice-authorbooks-ogorma28 October 2016
It seems as if you will be watching a suspenseful horror film. Sadly, you will be mistaken.

While I would watch a movie about rape-and-revenge, I would prefer it if it was made obvious in the description, instead of some nonsense about a curse.

I expected some weird coming across a graveyard or some Indian burial ground stuff (that they mention at the beginning, by the way), with some vengeance being taken out and her friends picked off.

Well, the last part was vaguely true.

I'm sorry, but this is the biggest example of false advertising I have seen since 'Bridge to Terabithia' (2007). Was there more than one writer, in separate rooms, doing this and hoping the other person would come up with a similar premise? It seems like that.

As stated above, I like the idea of a teenage girl deciding to get revenge on the lustful, vain jock who tried to rape her. But I don't appreciate disguising it as a horror movie.

The ending is just so bizarre and out of the blue that I can't wrap my head around it. It made even less sense than ever at this point.

Let me summarize by saying that if the movie had been truthful from the start, I would have given it about 5 stars. I would have preferred a story about a teenage girl escaping a curse, but the only horror is how you feel when you realize what the story really is.
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