Welcome to the eighth week of Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits. This week’s actor…
Matthew Lillard is arguably the most well known for playing Shaggy in live action Scooby Doo films, as well as some of the animated shows, movies, and specials for the series. A lot of people also know him from horror films such as Scream and Thirteen Ghosts; or the cult comedy Without a Paddle and drama in SLC Punk! As an actor, Lillard always gives it his all and his enthusiastic performances would indicate that he always seems to be enjoying himself, even when playing downer characters, like his short role in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. He’s an wonderful, fun, goofy, and fantastic actor who is completely underrated and not talked about nearly as much as he should be, and that’s why I’ve chosen him for this week’s Buried Credits! So let’s delve right in with the first film, the 1998 dark comedy, The Curve!
The Curve aka Dead Man’s Curve (1998)
Originally titled Dead Man’s Curve, the film was re-titled in some countries as The Curve after a comedy with a similar plot came out titled Dead Man on Campus was released the same year. The Curve follows the two lead characters, Chris (Michael Vartan) and Tim (Matthew Lillard) as they devise and enact a plan to kill their roommate Rand (Randall Batinkoff) and make it look like a suicide in order to get an automatic 4.0 in all of their classes, as it is said if a roommate commits suicide the trauma of the event would negatively affect learning. Once they’ve carried out their dastardly plan, Tim starts acting slightly strange while the two of them are talking to the cops, making it as if Chris may have had something to do with it. Throughout the film the twists and turns start involving other people as Rand’s girlfriend Natalie (Tamara Marie Watson) takes a turn for the worse after hearing of Rand’s suicide and Emma, Chris’ girlfriend (Keri Russell), who gets involved after grilling Chris as to why he’s acting so strange lately.
The Curve is an incredibly hard film to recommend. It’s well written – especially in the last half when everything goes nuts – well directed, and the acting is pretty decent, but it’s an incredibly bleak story and all the characters are pretty much assholes. Rand is as abusive jerk who drinks too much and mistreats Natalie; Chris and Tim both kill their roommate and long time friend in order get good grades; and Emma is friends with all of them despite and doesn’t seem to mind how awful they all are. It’s incredibly hard to get into a film where all of the characters are jerks with no redeemable qualities whatsoever, yet the movie flows as if we are supposed to relate to them.
That said, it is still a comedic film, albeit a very dark one. Starting out with a voice over of a comedian doing stand-up and talking about killing roommates to pass every year in college, it sets the tone for the macabre humour which permeates the story. It’s also difficult to watch as you don’t really know how anyone could get out of this situation positively, but at the same time you dislike all the characters anyway so you don’t really want them to get out of it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent flick. Batinkoff plays an incredibly convincing abusive, yet almost endearing, jerk; Russell’s Emma is kind and caring when she needs to be and firm and intense in other scenes; and Marie Watson is wonderfully tragic. The story takes twists and turns that start out obvious, Tim seemingly passing off the blame to Chris in order to more easily get away with the murder turning into something completely different. The plot goes through some crazy shifts down to the very last lines uttered in the film in a very fantastic way. If you enjoy horrible characters and pitch black comedy it’s definitely worth a shot, it’s just not for everyone.
Matthew Lillard here rocks it as Tim. He starts off like a fun and goofy party boy, but as the film progresses you realize that is just one big ball of psycho. His acting varies when he is with different characters as Tim is playing a different version of himself with each character he interacts with; the dark and evil guy with Chris, the best bud with the cops, and the fun party guy with Emma, and he does it all flawlessly. Granted, if you’ve seen him in stuff like Scream and SLC Punk! it really isn’t much we haven’t already seen, but he is wonderful nonetheless. Lillard’s standout scene here, while in terms of the technical aspect of filmmaking wasn’t great, is when he tells a story of how Rand humiliated an ex-girlfriend at prom. It’s dark and sinister yet he plays it with a smile which makes it all the more menacing and wonderful.
Verdict: Not exactly Treasure, but might be worth digging up.
The Curve is a dark and bleak film that may not be for everyone. Sure it has some good acting from most of the cast, especially Lillard, and great twists and turns, but it’s a hard film to recommend. If you really enjoy Lillard or if you like bleak comedic film it’s definitely worth digging up, but if that doesn’t sound like your kind of movie then I’d say let it stay buried.
Come back tomorrow for a more upbeat crime flick where Lillard acts against the Kingpin himself, Vincent D’Onofrio!