Ever wonder what would happen if you approached life differently? If that voice in your head criticising your every act was given license to run the show for a while? In Curon, an Italian supernatural drama, starring Margherita Morchio and Federico Russo this thought is given horror-infused life.
Teenage twins Daria (Morchio) and Mauro (Russo) are taken out of school and moved to the unsettling mountain town of Curon by their mother Anna (Valeria Bilello). Seventeen years ago she fled after the mysterious death of her own mother, and returning stirs up some unresolved memories. Yet when she disappears the twins set out to find her, and in doing so learn about the strange mythology surrounding the town’s supposedly defunct bell tower protruding from a reservoir which surrounds the settlement.
You know the score with a town such as Curon. A roster of villagers knows more than they are letting on and old family feuds run deep. We alternate between the adults who work through their own problems (sparked by Anna’s return) and the younger cast who go through usual high school problems.
Daria’s spikey and rebellious nature quickly alienates her from the local bad boys, whereas Mauro’s sincerity (and use of a hearing aid) marks him out as separate. For the most part these sections feel like the show is spinning wheels to get the pieces in place but it does pay dividends once we are all settled in.
The winners here are the family pairings. Daria and Mauro’s affection for each other even under all the arguing is genuine and warm. Similarly siblings Micki and Giulio share a bond that, whilst not immediately apparent, grows with the passing episodes. This foursome puzzle things out through the disappearance of Anna, and also the big question mark over the threatening presence of Micki and Giulio’s forest ranger father, and his off the beaten track cabin.
Curon knows that there is a good mystery here but suffers from a pacing problem. At first, the short run of episodes clutch the ‘what’s going on’ cards too close to its chest. Anna’s threatening father doesn’t want her there but her memories are conveniently hazy as to why. Anna’s disappearance sparks a reveal that we as the audience see way before the characters figure it out, so it can get a bit frustrating waiting for everyone to catch up. And then the last episode is reduced to lots of scary walking around in dark and secluded cave systems as the plot essentially runs out.
Yet there are great atmospheric moments here. The supposedly silent bell of Curon rings with ear-splitting ominousness at choice times but only one character at a time can hear it, much to their pain. Such ringing marks a crisis point and rising threat for the poor soul. This is given fuel throughout but particularly with Lukas. Lukas is in love with Micki but in that obsequious best friend way which you know full well will descend into jealousy and bitterness. Such inevitability is given all the more power when deep clangs ring out and Lukas clutches his head in agony.
To say any more would be to give things away. Curon tries to keep a foot in slightly too many camps by being part Wicker Man, part high school drama, and part horror movie. You can only hear portents of doom so much before you get eager to cut to the chase and once the central concept is clear this brings scares and twirling thumbs in equal measure.
Even with only seven episodes it feels like Curon struggles to fill its run time and so thankfully, for the most part, the twins put in good enough performances to keep you interested. But also if you like a quick dose of unsettling mystery, it will be you for whom the bell tolls.
Words by Michael Record