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Review: ‘The Curse Of Styria’

SDSU Grads To Screen Indie Film At Horrible Imaginings

Credit: MCMD Films

Above: "The Curse of Styria" screens SUnday night at the Digital Gym Cinema as part of the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival. It was made by SDSU grads Mauricio Chernovetzky and Mark Devendorf.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "The Curse of Styria" at the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival.


Last October I highlighted a Kickstarter campaign by two SDSU grads to raise $25,000 for post-production costs on their indie film. Now San Diego audiences will get a sneak peek of “The Curse of Styria” Sunday night at the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival at the Digital Gym Cinema.

Student Academy Award Nominated filmmakers, Mauricio Chernovetzky and Mark Devendorf had high ambitions for their first feature film. I had seen Chernovetzky's student work and was impressed by his skill. So I wasn't surprised that when he decided to make his first feature film he was not content to shoot in his own backyard with actor friends he knew in town, instead he and Devendorf decided to pursue an internationally known performer, Stephen Rea ("Crying Game," "Interview with a Vampire"), and shoot at a castle in Hungary where Angelina Jolie also shot. The film only recently completed post-production and is now beginning the long process of hitting the film festival circuit in the hopes of getting wider distribution.

"The Curse of Styria" (formerly just "Styria"), will screen Sunday night at 8:54pm (yep that's the time listed) and Chernovetzky said, "We're very excited to be able to share our film with this community since both Mark and I (co-writers and co-directors) lived here during our formative years. We actually met in grad school at SDSU and began developing the story on long walks around North Park."

Chernovetzky described his film as "a Gothic thriller that delves into the teenage obsessions of sex, death, and suicide. While researching the source novel, 'Carmilla,' [we] made a startling connection to the phenomenon now called Suicide Clusters was the most likely source of the historic notion of vampirism."

The story opens in 1989, and a troubled teen named Lara (Eleanor Tomlinson) accompanies her historian father (Stephen Rea) across the Iron Curtain to an old abandoned castle where he is restoring some long lost murals. A corrupt general (Jacek Lenartowicz) does his best to shake down the father and shake up the daughter.

"This place makes people nervous, the stories they tell, vile acts of every kind. You haven’t seen nothing strange, with those lovely blue eyes, another pretty stranger perhaps," the general informs Lara.

Lara has seen a pretty stranger, a mysterious woman named Carmilla (Julia Pietrucha) who suggests that the history of the place itself is wrapped up in the personal secrets of Lara’s family.

"In olden days when someone was sick, they would take them to someone who would bleed them with a razor that would get rid of the bad blood that made them ill. Maybe you just have some bad blood… I understand the desire to have control power over something. They try to possess us, break us, those who don’t resist learn to live with the misery for the rest of their broken lives," Carmilla explains to Lara, who has revealed that she's a cutter and that she might be sent to an institution.

A creepy castle, hostile locals, strange stories about past… these are the perfect elements for a seductive and atmospheric movie. Written and directed by Chernovetzky and Devendorf, “The Curse of Styria” serves up old school Gothic horror with an emphasis on mood over explicit gore, and story over outright scares. Its literary roots show in the narrative that feels more fleshed out and smart than most horror films coming from young filmmakers. Shot in Hungary at a real castle, the film boasts the ominous lushness of a fever dream.

“The Curse of Styria” marks a promising debut for these young SDSU grads.

Companion viewing: "Kiss of the Damned," "The Hunger," "Byzantium"

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