Nesbit’s debut film is rather aptly named, as this low budget
British film mixes elements of Psycho, Misery
and assorted supernatural thrillers into an uneasy combination
that is very much a mixed bag.
Set on the Yorkshire moors, the film opens with American Lauren
(Jennifer Bryer) and her daughter Emily (Sydney Wade) –
who it is quickly established is half-English, possibly to cover
a wandering accent – as they visit a dilapidated farmhouse
that they have inherited. While there, a neighbour visits and
immediately starts casting the runes in a spot of fortune telling.
This doesn’t end well, as the old lady is possessed by an
evil spirit and promptly dies after spitting out an ominous warning.
When a local policeman seems set to take both Lauren and Emily
into custody, the woman assaults him and the pair flee.
The next thing we see is Lauren waking up in bed, a bullet in
her shoulder and her ankle sprained, and being looked after by
Len (Wayne Russell), a dishevelled, religiously obsessed and rather
unstable farmer who hears his domineering mother talking to him
in his head, and is not above nailing himself to a chair as punishment
for bad thoughts. Things are clearly not going to end well…
Curio has plenty of potential, but it’s
mostly unfulfilled. I’ll admit I groaned out loud as Len
began arguing with ‘mother’ – over half an century
after Psycho, it seemed hard to believe that
someone would trot out that old cliché again. But to be
fair, Nesbit does give the idea a bit of a twist – a Texas
Chain Saw Massacre style twist that is equally unoriginal,
it has to be said, but a twist nonetheless.
The introduction of supernatural elements into what would otherwise
be a straight-forward psycho story sits uneasily too. When Emily
is visited by a ghost boy (I’m not spoiling anything here
– if you didn’t guess this immediately, you clearly
haven’t seen many films), it not only fails to progress
the plot at all, but also gives screen time to the worst child
actor you will have ever seen (though he’s not the worst
actor in the film, ironically – that goes to the extraordinarily
wooden policeman). There is no reason at all for any of this material
in the film.
Full marks must go to Wayne Russell, who tears it up as the demented
Len, one minute shyly excited about his imaginary relationship
with Lauren, the next full of fury and violence as she fails to
live up to his moral expectations. He’s an arresting presence
throughout the film, and any time that he is on screen, the film
is much more interesting. Unfortunately, Bryer – either
through bad acting, bad characterisation or a combination of both
– is completely unconvincing as the hostage, who takes the
fact that she’s living with a lunatic and hasn’t seen
her daughter in days rather too calmly. Her character seems to
be entirely emotionless – even during supposedly frantic
moments, she barely registers that this is anything more than
an inconvenience. The tension that the film needs is effectively
dissipated by her apparent lack of concern.
Curio is, ultimately, a failure – though
not an entirely uninteresting one. Russell’s character and
layered performance manages to hold the viewer’s interest,
and although in the end he can’t save the film, he certainly
makes it less of an ordeal that it might have otherwise been.
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