Fun fact! This film was released on VHS in 1998 while I was working part-time in a Video Ezy store. The title upon its release was “Dead Man’s Curve”. As years went by the film disappeared on VHS and was never released on DVD in Australia. I did manage to find a DVD copy of the film overseas, but it was retitled “The Curve”. It is this DVD version that I’ve used for this review. There is currently no other way of viewing this title in Australia (not even digitally). So, if this film can’t be considered in Australia, why on earth am I discussing it? My reason for this review is to simply to share a movie that impacted me personally in a positive way when I first watched this film as a teenager. My score below is based on the film itself, but this is one of my favourite ‘guilty pleasure’ films. For example, I also love watching “Kung Pow” (2002), but in no way is that film a 10/10, you dig? But, let’s chat about this film.
Two college students Chris (Michael Vartan) and Tim (Matthew Lillard) decide to kill their roommate Rand and make his death look a suicide. The reason why Chris and Tim decide to do this is because they’ve learnt about a myth within the college that if a roommate commits suicide, the fellow roommates will automatically get high marks (and a free pass for all subjects) for that semester. As a bonus, the two notice that Rand isn’t a nice guy around campus. This makes it much easier for them to feel less guilty about killing him and faking his suicide. The two also conduct research beforehand to make his death look more like a suicide, particularly for when the police turn up to investigate.
Our two leads are different from one another, and at some point, it’s hard to say why they’re friends. Chris (Michael Vartan) is always getting straight As until recently when he received a B+ for a recent exam. He is generally against the idea of killing his roommate but by his side, pushing him into this new difficult situation is Tim. Tim (Matthew Lillard) is entirely the opposite- he’s generally hurtful, rude, loud and inconsiderate at all times. It’s a wonder how Chris puts up with him as a roommate.
The opening to this film is rather creative. While the film’s credits are being shown, we hear an audio track with a comedian talking about how college kids can kill a roommate and in return receive a high grade for free. The comedian also jokes about how this is giving students a licence to kill, joking they’re majoring in 007. Later we find out it is this punch line that gave our leading characters the idea of killing Rand in the first place.
This film is not a comedy. This is a thriller with added elements of drama. To my surprise, there are multiple unexpected twists and turns along the way. When I first watched this film on VHS as a teenager, every twist and turn was utterly unpredictable and extremely enjoyable. I found myself repeatedly questioning who is playing who.
I’ll admit after my recent re-watch that performances can be a mixed bag for some viewers. At certain moments the dialogue from the leads can feel weak or perhaps cliché. At times our leading characters can almost be compared to a couple of schoolboys rather than acting like actual adults. Some may say the actor Matthew Lillard is way over the top in the film, but for me, I felt he stole the show here. To this day this film has my favourite performance from the actor to date.
Overall, I like this movie more than most people. There’s something about this film that I’ve always loved, and it impacted me in a big way. To this day, I would class this film a proud guilty pleasure within my film collection. Over the top acting and consistent twists and turns are all fun to me. As far as plot, for 1998 this was something different and something fresh, and I had never seen any film like it. Considering this was a directional debut, there were also many creative choices which still bring a smile to my face until the credits roll.
Dead Man’s Curve (1998) – Movie Review Podcast is now available!
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Review Written by Peter Walkden