American looker Lauren (Jennifer Bryer) travels across the English countryside with her young British daughter Emily (Sydney Wade). As they drive, they discuss the subtle differences between the two nations Ė how Lauren canít get a decent cup of coffee over here; the savage state of Britonsí teeth Ė and reveal that they are bonding after only recently having been reunited.

Their destination is a dilapidated cottage sat remotely on the Yorkshire moors, left to them by a recently deceased uncle. Upon arrival, they inspect the place and Lauren rather naively harbours ideas of turning it into a B&B for hikers. But, as Emily is quick to point out, the cottage only has two bedrooms Ė and one of them is tiny.

They begin to bond even closer, when there comes an unexpected knock on the door. Enter an elderly local lady called Mabel, offering a warm welcoming in the form of a truly disgusting-looking pie.

"How did you know that we were coming?" asks Lauren, further bemused when the old lady knows Emilyís name. It transpires that the woman believes she is capable of communicating with the spirit world. Despite Laurenís initial reluctance, she offers to perform a sťance in the cottage in an attempt to contact "grumpy old" uncle John Ė and Emily is quick to encourage her mother to participate.

The bizarre ritual that follows turns ugly, naturally. The old woman appears to be dead as a result of her performance. Lauren frantically rings the police on her mobile. Mere moments later, local bobby Tom (Alun Nixon) arrives on their doorstep ... and arrests Lauren for Mabelís murder.

Then things get even weirder: Lauren attempts to escape with Emily, only to black-out Ė and awaken later, tied to a bedpost and suffering from a gunshot wound to her shoulder. She has no idea where she is, or who the creepy grey-haired fucker looking over her is.

He is, in fact, Mummyís boy Len (Wayne Russell). Len tells a distraught Lauren that Emily is safe, resting in another room of the house. He offers her a cup of tea, but refuses to relinquish the knife tightly grasped in his hand. The voice of his omnipresent Mother wonít allow it ...

When Tom comes calling, asking if Len has seen an American woman in the area, Len denies all knowledge Ė and Lauren becomes increasingly concerned about the safety of her and Emily. She realises their captor is a true psycho, and they must escape if they are to survive...

CURIO has an intriguing premise and happily boasts a storyline that bobs and weaves through unexpected turns on frequent occasion. It also has an extremely quirky, distinctly British feel to it: at times, itís impossible not to be reminded of the sinister rural community of TVís "The League of Gentlemen".

Benefitting from the natural beauty of the Yorkshire moors as its ambient backdrop, CURIO scores points for its setting and small but unpredictable plot.

Where it falls down somewhat is in its performances. Wade acts the adults off the screen. Itís unfortunate that sheís not on the screen more often, as she far outclasses some of the crappy grown-ups in the cast. Russell is often embarrassing, and Bronwyn Jennison, providing the voice that haunts him, seems to be doing her level best to turn the whole thing into a comedy. Nixon is ... quite possibly the worst actor Iíve witnessed in years. I could watch this film repeatedly, just to see him in action again. Steven Nesbitt writes and directs, stumbling occasionally on both scores (the aforementioned performances; pacing is uneven; dialect is accurate but clunky at times). But despite these shortcomings he does maintain an air of claustrophobia that works well as a contrast to the wide open surroundings, and manages to overcome the blatant references to THE SIXTH SENSE and PSYCHO by virtue of original twists.

CURIO also boasts a score by ex-Blur guitarist Graham Coxon. It is by equal turns obvious and pleasingly fresh. Itís nothing new, but it does lend events a welcome amount of mood.

CURIO is presented uncut in 16x9 widescreen, and looks generally good. The colour palettes used in the film are not the most vivid to begin with, so the transfer does tend to look a little flat in this respect. But images are sharp and black levels are consistent.

English 2.0 audio is clean and well-balanced.

The disc opens to a coolly animated main menu page, which boasts more of Coxonís atmospheric score. From there, an animated scene-selection menu allows access to the main feature via 12 chapters.

Extras begin with a 95-second trailer that doesnít do the film justice.

Next up is an engaging 13-minute onscreen chat with Coxon. He discusses how he became attracted to the project, the ambience he was striving for in his sounds, and the process of writing and recording the material. Coxon appears awkward as he describes the sound he went for as "Pink Floyd ... with fangs". He seems a likeable, genuinely nerdy type of fellow though.

A 3-minute photo and stills gallery offers a generous amount of colour images while more of Coxonís strains grace the soundtrack.

Finally, we get trailers for other titles available from ISIS Ltd: BRAIN DEAD, TEMPTATION, ARC, RUNNING IN TRAFFIC, SENSELESS, FATED, S.N.U.B! and BAD DAY.

CURIO pretty much lives up to its title. Itís a subtle, at times quietly unsettling thriller, very British in its design. It has flaws that are no doubt due to its low budget and inexperienced director, but it benefits from ethereal visuals and a laidback, sporadically haunting score from Coxon.

Worth checking out, if you can overcome the filmís genuine eccentricity.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by ISIS Ltd
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review