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A cliche, stereotyped 'Curse' 20 years behind the times

A cliche, stereotyped 'Curse' 20 years behind the times
Actress Bella Heathcote stars in "The Curse of Downers Grove." (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Co-adapted by Bret Easton Ellis from Michael Hornburg's 2001 novel, "The Curse of Downers Grove" seems to be jumping on that 1990s teen slasher bandwagon two decades too late.

Director Derick Martini steers the story of a local high school built on sacred American Indian ground and a curse that each year claims the life of a senior mere days before graduation. Skeptical of the curse's validity and apathetic about the mounting death toll, Chrissie (Bella Heathcote) suddenly finds her own life in peril when she partly blinds roid-raging star quarterback Chuck (Kevin Zegers) to fend off his sexual assault. Rather than rushing him to the emergency room, Chuck's bros hop right in the car to hunt her down.

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Vengeful American Indian spirits have become a cliché in horror flicks; witness "Dark Was the Night" released in July. Such a premise turns historical victims into nameless, faceless bogeymen. It's especially unforgivable when the alleged Indian curse is only a red herring to distract viewers from the more pressing gender-based violence at hand.

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"The Curse of Downers Grove."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.

Playing: AMC Burbank Town Center 8. Also on VOD.

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