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The Real Curse Of Downers Grove . . .

"I saw more people die in high school than in the rest of my life," Downers Grove South graduate Michael Hornburg tells the Daily Herald.

"One kid died in a car crash," he said. "One kid drowned in a quarry. The girl who sat next to me in typing class, she was kidnapped outside of an arcade and was found murdered inside a garbage bag in Lisle. So there was a lot of murder and mayhem and people getting killed on a scale I never experienced again."

A movie based on his book The Curse of Downers Grove is out Tuesday on Blu-ray, DVD and video on demand.

We asked Hornburg if he had seen The Curse of Downers Grove and if he approved of the huge changes made from his original book, all about a high school senior named Chrissy who becomes slightly obsessed that she might fall victim to "the curse."

Chrissy's sagely grandmother, a dominant figure in the novel, has been expunged from the movie, as has Chrissy's mother's insatiable appetite for male attention.

"Chrissy's grandmother is the moral center of the book," Hornburg said. "Chrissy is always going to her for advice. That's sad they didn't keep her in the movie."

Hornburg admitted that if this had been his first experience turning a book into a movie, he'd be much more outraged by the changes. But he's been on this horse before.

His 1996 novel Bongwater, a quasi-autobiographical work centered around the grunge music scene in Portland during the '80s, became a 1998 movie starring Luke Wilson as an aspiring artist who falls in love with smoking pot, prompting his girlfriend (Alicia Witt) to head to New York with a heroin addict (Jamie Kennedy). The movie also featured Jack Black, Amy Locane, Brittany Murphy, Andy Dick and Jeremy Sisto.

"In books, you're trying to create an emotional feeling," Hornburg said. "In movies, people want to be rocked out of their seats. It's a completely different thing. I had previously gone through this with Bongwater. I was in complete shock over that.

"That experience prepared me to be more open and more understanding and more ready for what (the film) was going to be. You just have to distance yourself from the movie. I understand that they have so much money invested in this that you have to let them do what they want."

And what was it they wanted for the movie?

"They always wanted more drama, more tension! More tension! More tension!" he said. "That's just the theme in Hollywood. They want things scarier and scarier. That's just how it works."

The Curse of Downers Grove that Hornburg wrote - he described it as a lighthearted high school tale like Clueless turns into a fairly violent homage to Sam Peckinpah's home invasion thriller Straw Dogs.

* IMDB describes the movie as "A teen angst thriller at a high school gripped by an apparent curse that claims the life of a senior every year."

* Bret Easton Ellis wrote the screenplay, which is why some promo material say "From the author of American Psycho."

* The book dates back to 1996; "Full of humor, wit, and the sacrilegious worldview of a savvy teenager, Downers Grove paints a searing portrait of the American dream in all its broken glory."

* Filming took place in the Lincoln Park neighborhood - of Pomona, California.

* Katie Rife of the A.V. Club gives the movie a C-, writing that The Curse Of Downer's Grove is very impressed with its own cleverness, which it flaunts with flourishes like the always-distressing omniscient voice-over; dream sequences that wouldn't be out of place in a mid-'90s VH1 rock block; a sentimental slideshow of our leads that, like most of the film's male characters, is creepily fixated on [lead actress Bella] Heathcote; and a wholly unnecessary minute-and-a-half long post-credits stinger. Like the most popular student at a suburban high school, it thinks it's something special. But it won't make it in the big city."

* With Tom Arnold.

* ImDontai reacts to the trailer:


Comments welcome.


Posted on September 1, 2015

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