Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions has established quite the hold on horror. In fact, Blumhouse’s success necessitated the creation of Blumhouse Tilt to produce and release smaller movies across multiple platforms. One of BH Tilt’s early releases, Curve, has sat on Netflix now for a few years. Finally, after skipping over this title countless times, I’m offering a review for Netflix horror fans.
Young bride-to-be Mallory is driving cross-country to Denver for her wedding rehearsal. At a crossroads, Mallory opts for the scenic route. But when her car breaks down, she’s stuck in the middle of nowhere with no cellphone reception. When a drifter, Christian, shows up and fixes the car, Mallory’s luck seemingly turns. However, Mallory’s new hitchhiker is dangerously disturbed. Are she drives the car off the curve of a road, Malllory finds herself trapped in the overturned vehicle with Christian stalking her from outside.
Curve Struggles to Draw Suspense From Its Limited Setting
Initially, Curve feels like a gender-swapped update of The Hitcher. But screenwriters Kimberly Lofstrom Johnson and Lee Patterson throw a ‘curveball’ pretty early in the movie. Trapping Mallory in an overturned car instantly mixes up what could have been a stale thriller. Yet While Curve’s limited physical setting distinguishes it from past movies, it also limits the movie’s suspense. A handful of movies have made tight spaces work over a 90-minute thriller, including Phone Booth and Ryan Reynold’s Buried.
…director Iain Softley struggles to build and sustain tension …
While Curve never becomes boring, director Iain Softley struggles to build and sustain tension like the examples listed above. Part of the problem stems from Softley’s direction. Rats turn up, the car floods during a rainstorm … but none of it generates much suspense. On the one hand, Curve doesn’t look cheap or rushed. Nonetheless, there’s a certain workmanlike quality to everything. Curve has a premise that required some innovation to maximize the thrills. What we get instead is a rather straightforward approach to the material.
Curve Lacks a Compelling Villain
However, where Curve really struggles to land its premise is its lack of a compelling villain. Teddy Sears, best known for playing Jay Garrick in The Flash series, feels miscast. Even with straightforward direction, Curve could have still played as an intense ‘cat and mouse’ thriller. Sears isn’t necessarily bad in the role, but he conveys very little menace. Most of his exchanges with Julianne Hough’s ‘Mallory’ feel flat. By and large, Sears plays a rather straightforward psychopath as compared to, say, Rutger Hauer’s idiosyncratic ‘Hitcher’.
…Hough is fine in what’s an entirely forgettable role.
As the trapped protagonist, Mallory, Julianne Hough is also perfectly serviceable. That is, Hough convinces with the material she’s given, but her performance is unlikely to turn heads. Like everything else about Curve, Hough is fine in what’s an entirely forgettable role. Unfortunately, for Curve to rise above mediocrity, it needed commanding performances, not rote ones.
Curve Swithes Gears in Its Final Act
Curve may initially position itself as a psychological thriller, but Softley abruptly shifts gears in the final act. Specifically, Softley opens up the movie’s world and falls back on some standard slasher film tropes. The gore quotient gets turn up just a bit, though not nearly enough to satisfy hardcore horror fans. There are a couple of decent jumps areas. But it’s all in service of a completely unremarkable climax that sadly defines the movie.
Curve An Adequate Rainy Day Time-Waster
Neither good nor terrible, Curve consistently straddles mediocrity. It’s an adequate thriller that benefits from decent production values, competent direction and performances, and a relatively brisk pace. You won’t remember much about it when it’s over, but Curve makes for an adequate rainy day time-waster.