At this point, “anti” holiday films are just as treasured a tradition as sincere entries. For every A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, there’s a Thankskilling. CUPID is the indie horror on the scene, offering a bloody alternative to all those ooey-gooey lovey feelings.
CUPID stars Georgina Jane, Bao Tieu, Michael Owusu, Abi Casson Thompson, and Sarah T. Cohen and is helmed by writer and director Scott Jeffrey. The film promises a truly bloody valentine and the “true” story of the legend of Cupid.
In a moment, we’ll get into the issue of calling a reimagining of a Greek legend a “true” story. For now, here’s what you need to know about the story of CUPID. Scott Jeffrey puts a heartbreaking twist on the classical Greek legend of Cupid, the God of Love, and his marriage to the mortal woman Psyche. Instead of the well-known tale of love conquering the challenges of the gods and a “happily ever after” ending, CUPID reworks the legend into a tragedy that leaves the god of Love warped into an arm of Death and punisher of romantic wrongdoing.
Faye, a young teen and fledgling witch, harbors a crush on her adult teacher and attempts to use a love spell to win him over. Her plan is discovered by the local mean girls, who manipulate Faye’s crush into the ultimate embarrassment. Heartbroken and angry, Faye summons the dark Cupid to carry out her revenge. When the carnage that follows becomes more than she bargained for, Faye and her classmates must figure out a way to stop Cupid and break the spell before it’s lights out for all of them.
Credit where credit is due: CUPID is refreshingly original. The film is highly innovative, from its effects to storytelling. The film has the audacity to boldly go where poets and artists and the great creators of opera and ballet have been treading for years, only to violently veer off the path and into a ditch. I will go ahead and acknowledge and catalogue my personal bias in that I do not approve of this adaptation of the Cupid and Psyche myth, though I will recognize it as wholly unique. That, however, does not make it the “shocking true story” of anything.
The effects used in CUPID, in particular, are a laudable effort. Clever camera tricks paired with strategically placed gore makeup bring the scares to the next level, in a believable way. Lighting and camerawork bring the horror to life and what CUPID lacks in polish, it makes up for in its bold style. The film feels scrappy and you want to root for it because of that.
CUPID has all the good looks you could want out of an indie horror. Unfortunately, in many ways, CUPID is just a pretty face. The cast feels lacking and the performances are overwhelmingly lackluster. It’s hard to pinpoint where this is the fault of the cast or the tangled knot that is the film’s story threads.
From the get-go, CUPID feels a bit scattered. The way that information is revealed doesn’t make much sense. It’s almost like the film wasn’t quite sure of its own lore; a dangerous game when it comes to crafting a movie curse. Pacing is the true nail in the coffin for CUPID. The film is burdened by all the details that are being fit in. First, it’s a story of unrequited love. Then it’s revenge. Then it’s a curse. Then we’re taking it all back.
The character’s motivation is all over the place and is never made clear or concrete. The areas of the story that are well fleshed out only feel that way because an exhaustive amount of time was dedicated to them. It gives off the distinct air of a film that tried to do too much and it’s a shame that the focus and edits were not properly concentrated.
As far as the man, himself, CUPID’s demonic Cupid leaves much to be desired. The special effects around the character and costuming are impressive, but he feels hollow. As a monster, he’s not particularly intimidating. As a potentially tragic figure, he’s wooden. This is another area of the film where a tightened up script would have made a world of difference.
Cupid is never clearly defined as to whether he is an independent evil, warped by Death, or a tool of destruction that Death commands. Note the difference, it’s a big one. The film doesn’t fully commit to either idea and that gray area only makes for muddied lore. The potential for a great horror villain is there, but it lacks polish.
Here’s the deal…
As a standalone film, CUPID does not pass muster. Its faults are rarely forgivable and its strengths do not make up for those stumbles. That being said, as an entry in the proud tradition of “anti” holiday films, CUPID is a lot of fun. For the creepy couple or sick-minded single, CUPID goes down like those generic boxes of assorted chocolates. Maybe not the best choice you’ve ever made, but a treat nonetheless.
CUPID will be available on DVD and Digital, February 11. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!