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Marrtown

Long ago, in the wake of a deadly duel, a family was cursed through the generations. Though innocent of any wrongdoing, it was daughter Theodosia (Kristin Mitchem) who faced the worst of the curse, struggling to protect her young son. She finally consults a mysterious seer (Emily Lapisardi) who says that the curse cannot be broken, but perhaps it can also become a blessing. Casting a spell upon Theodora's locket, she says that it is now an object of great power and returns it to Theodora, also advising her to change her son's name and hide him away.

In the present, descendant and lookalike Theo Burton faces more ordinary problems. Her father has recently passed away, and though they were divorced her mother (Sherri Knapp) isn't taking it well. Theo also has one more year of college to complete, and while Professor Daniels (Jeff Little) is happy to give her extra credit she isn't too thrilled with the idea since it involves letting him sexually harass her. Theo's friends Blythe (Mandi Bolyard) and Winter (Philip Morris) are supportive of her in this unpleasant situation, while Kelley (Toni Marie Perry) suggests blackmail. This, we will see, is typical of how Kelley's mind works.

But other things are going wrong as well, like the strange dreams that Theo is having which seem to mimic real life. Also, her neighbor Missy (Maria Olsen) is convinced that Theo is a witch from a family of witches and isn't afraid to say so very loudly. Beginning to wonder if there might be some truth to Missy's accusation, Theo consults her cousin Angus (Zeilo Vogta, who also wrote the script), who hints at old family stories regarding curses and the locket. And it does seem as though the Burton men in particular tend to die young. Only Uncle Jason (Bob Butler) is still around to give Theo some family keepsakes, among them the locket.

While Theo doesn't quite know what to make of any of this, frenemy Kelley has plenty of ideas and isn't afraid to break all the rules in order to further her own schemes. When she tries to tap into the power of the curse, she risks all hell breaking loose -- perhaps literally -- but all she cares about is getting what she wants, from supernatural abilities to worldly riches, and a little thing like a curse doesn't scare her. But power isn't always easy to control, and when the dust settles lives will have changed -- or even ended.

The historical scenes felt off to me -- though granted I'm fussy about historical settings -- and also a bit rushed, but the film hits its stride once the background is set up and the action enters the modern day. The mystery unravels gradually and convincingly, and Theo's frustration over all the people (read: men) trying to protect her by hiding the facts from her is particularly realistic. Yes, everyone needs help sometimes, but "help" generally shouldn't involve lying or concealment of useful information.

Maria Olsen naturally steals all her scenes and gives unexpected depth to a relatively minor character, though many of the other lesser roles are unfortunately neglected. It's still worth four out of five, however -- it's an ambitious undertaking for an indie film but it largely succeeds, offering some interesting ideas and and more cohesive internal logic than many horror movies. Theo's character is also given a wonderful arc, showing her journey from an uncertain, often lost student to a capable young woman ready to live the life she wants, even if she has to fight all the curses in the world -- with a little help from her loyal friends.

Image: 
Theo wakes screaming. Those nightmares about having missed class are the worst.

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