Clearly encouraged by the phenomenal success of the Twilight series, writer director Richard La Grevanese tries to capture that lucrative mix of teen romance and supernatural horror in his adaptation of Kami Garcia’s novel Beautiful Creatures. For some this will be a daunting prospect as the Twilight films weren’t exactly artistic triumphs. Thankfully, Beautiful Creatures undercuts the typical tedious po-faced pomposity of the supernatural romance with self-deprecating humour that pulls it closer to Dark Shadows than the ab-flexing vampire franchise.
Alice Englert (daughter of Jane Campion) fills the Kristen Stewart sullen female lead role as Lena Duchannes a teen girl recently arrived in a conservative South Carolina town to live with her mysterious uncle and suspected Satanist Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons). Despite being an instant outcast and as the red neck Bible thumpers always suspected, a witch, she wins the heart of local would-be rebel Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich). Their relationship seems to be blooming until an ancient rite threatens to drag Lena to the dark, destructive side of witchcraft.
Beautiful Creatures boasts an energetic start and ending filled with elaborate effects sequences, and surprisingly witty dialogue. Unfortunately, the film sags in the middle as it explores the convoluted lore surrounding the ancient curse Lena has to combat and just has the teens sitting around reading ancient tomes.
The film benefits greatly from some amusingly fruity performances including Jeremy Irons as Ravenwood with his Huckleberry Hound Southern accent and extravagant attire which include a kung fu pajamas/ silk kimono ensemble. He’s a model of restraint, though, compared to Emma Thomson as Lena’s evil witch mother who delivers the kind of loopy, over-the-top performance we would normally expect from Jack Nicholson. Emmy Rossum is also stunning and funny as a goth femme fatale witch determined to drag Lena to the dark side. Alice Englert proves she’s an actress to watch as she infuses Lena with a sharp wit and appropriately moody presence. There’s genuine chemistry between her and Ehrenreich, who looks like a Dr Moreau genetic hybrid of Taylor Lautner and Emile Hirsch. As the teen desperate to escape the dull Southern town Ethan makes some pretty obvious attempts at becoming a cultured rebel – reading Catcher in the Rye and Charles Bukowski – but it is funny seeing him trying to sing along with Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues.
This is a flawed film and one that doesn’t always make sense but it’s fun and a cut above the usual teen horror/ romance fare.
Nick’s rating: Three stars.
Director(s): Richard LaGravenese
Release date: 21st Feb 2013
Running time: 124 mins.
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