The Hollywood Movie Made in Our House: “The Curve”

Jill and I were digging up the backyard in 2006. We’d just had a brick wall built between us and the neighbor. We unearthed old bottles and clay pot fragments, colorful pieces of glass, and lots of oyster shells It took us weeks of digging. One morning Jill pulled a photo slide from the dirt, then held it to the light. She couldn’t make out the picture but was intrigued by the caption on the slide frame: “Deadman’s Curve. Mt. Royal Enter. August 1997.” Jill did an internet search and discovered that “Deadman’s Curve” was a movie, renamed “The Curve” and filmed in part at John’s Hopkins University, just two blocks away. Might our house been involved?

Because our house had been abandoned when we took it over, we had all of the fraternity’s records in our possession — two grocery boxes of papers. Jill dug through them and not only found mention of the movie but learned that several scenes had been filmed in our house. We ran out and rented the movie!

Directed by Dan Rosen and starring Keri Russell — in a pre-Felicity role — Terry Lillard, Michael Vartan, Randall Batinkoff, and Dana Delaney, it had a pretty good cast.

Here’s what Videohound says about it: “College roomies … learn that student myth is true at their small university. Should a roomie commit suiicide, the survivors receive an automatic 4.0 for the semester. So Tim offs Rand and has Chris help him cover things up. Naturally things don’t work out entirely as expected. Not nearly as clever as it tries to be.” It earned two out of four bones. Jill and I think that’s a pretty generous review. The film went straight to video.

keri russellAs we watched the movie, we had to wait about half an hour before our house showed up. At first, we didn’t recognize it because the director showed kids entering from the back yard. Entering from the front yard would have been a better shot but the fraternity was already in so much trouble with the neighborhood, they couldn’t afford to draw attention to this bit of fun.

Our house acted as the story’s animal house–no suprise–and featured several shots and 3 distinct scenes, the largest of which was a round of “beer hunter,” a drinking game that parodies the Russian roulette scene from “Deer Hunter.”

Our house looked in bad shape. Like an old house that a fraternity had driven into the ground. Again, no suprise. This was just one year before the boys abandoned the place. The extras in the party scene were, without question, the boys who lived in the house. Both the drinking game and the ensuing argument and fight take place in the our dining room.

There must have been about 70 people in the shot. Most of the shots in the first part of the trailer are in our house. If you pause it, you can see many distinct details. Notice, for starters, how the woodwork is painted. Take a look at the walls. See the fraternity’s bold blue isignia? That was just one of many outsized paintings they’d left for us.

Here’s the trailer:

Another synopsis: Dan Rosen directed this thriller, filmed in and around Baltimore, based on the college urban legend that you get a cool 4.0 semester grade if your roommate commits suicide. Roommates Rand (Randall Batinkoff), manipulative Tim (Matthew Lillard), and good-guy Chris (Michael Vartan) are seniors at a university where this legend is legit.

Since Rand mistreats his pregnant girlfriend Natalie (Tamara Craig Thomas), he’s the obvious choice. Tim gets Cliff to assist in Rand’s “suicidal” leap from a cliff — but with that foul deed done, Tim points the police in Chris’s direction and then seduces Chris’ girlfriend Emma (Keri Russell).

After Natalie really does commit suicide, students, cops, and the campus psychiatrist (Dana Delaney) begin to ask probing questions. Track tunes include The Cure, Suzanne Vega, Joy Division, and The Smiths. Shown at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Bhob Stewart, All Movie Guide