So, I’m looking around online for an image of the poster for director Iain Softley’s 2015 BlumHouse-distributed horror flick Curve and I notice that all of them have that little “bonus : a twisted alternate storyline” blurb on them, which tells me that not only was this thing released straight to video (since I’m assuming the “bonus alternate storyline” is some sort of Blu-ray/DVD extra), but that there was never even any intention of giving it any sort of theatrical play, even as a limited release or a one-off screening, given that a “proper” movie poster, complete with credits, is usually done up for films that are going to get some action on the festival circuit or, at the very least, a single-showing “premier” at a rented theater in LA. Hell, poster mock-ups of some sort are usually done even for films where the distributor/production company might be considering having a “one-and-done” screening. The fact that one was apparently never made for Curve, then, tells me that BlumHouse knew exactly what they had on their hands here from the outset — and so should we.
I’ll confess right out of the gate that I saw this thing on Netflix and therefore can’t comment on this whole “alternate storyline” thing, but I will say this much : whatever it is, it has to be better than the film itself, because while Curve is in no way especially awful, it most certainly is one of the most formulaic, “cookie-cutter,” by-the-numbers “survival horror” movies you’ll ever see, and fades from memory more or less the instant the end credits stop rolling — assuming you even make it that far.
Our set-up goes as follows : idealistic young lovebird Mallory Rutledge (played by Julianne Hough) is moving cross-country to Denver to marry the man of her dreams when a phone conversation with her sister, Ella (Penelope Mitchell) plants the “wild hair” idea in her mind to go and check out the Grand Canyon. Out of the blue, though, her rental truck up and dies in the middle of nowhere and, lo and behold, she can’t get any cell phone service to call for help. Never fear, though : a handy young drifter who knows his way around an engine named Christian Laughton (Teddy Sears, perhaps best known as Jay Garrick on TV’s The Flash) is there to lend assistance, and Mallory offers him a lift in exchange for his “Good Samaritan” routine once he’s got them all “road-ready” again. The ride goes south pretty quickly, though, once Christian starts talking dirty to her, pulls a knife, and orders her to take them to the nearest fleabag motel, and Mallory, upstanding young lady of virtue that she is, figures her best bet is to intentionally run off the road and hope that, I dunno, she lives, he dies, and she can crawl her way to safety.
Okay, so it’s not the best plan, but it’s all she’s got — and it meets with a mixed level of what passes for “success” when she wakes up to find herself still among the living, but with her leg trapped under all manner of vehicular wreckage and her would-be “suitor” nowhere to be found. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt, so presumably he was thrown either clear or to his doom, but will she live long enough to find out if he’s still both out there and in any condition to stalk her? Blazing desert heat, a bum leg, numerous internal injuries, and a foggy head are enough to contend with in and of themselves, especially in the middle of fucking nowhere, but throw in a revenge-hungry psychopath and your odds of making it to sundown become even slimmer.
If all of this sounds almost atrociously familiar, rest assured that Softley — who proved with The Skeleton Key that he’s capable of directing a good horror film — does nothing to dispel that feeling as he methodically goes about his lackluster business here. Admittedly, Kimberly Lofstrom Johnson’s script doesn’t give him a whole lot to work with, but he’s so clearly phoning it in here (wait! I thought there was no service?) that you’re to be congratulated for your perseverance if you don’t start tuning this out at about the 30-minute mark. Sears makes for a convincing-enough predator in the early going, but when he’s (mostly) absent and the film starts depending almost entirely on Hough to carry it, well — she struggles, let’s just leave it at that.
And, I must confess, I’m struggling a bit myself to think of anything else to say about Curve. If it were standing in the middle of the road, I’d do whatever I could to avoid it, even if it meant throwing my car off an embankment and taking my chances.