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‘The Curse’ Review: People Who Live in Glass Houses


The difference between delight and disaster, the scene suggests, is often a matter of framing. “The Curse,” mostly directed by Fielder, emphasizes this theme visually: Characters are shot through windows, reflected in mirrors, espied through chain-link fences, caught in the rectangle of an iPhone. Asher, whom Dougie is gradually making into the villain-fool of his own TV show, sits down for makeup on set, and we see him distorted by the metallic panels of the house into a somber ogre.

As the Siegels and Dougie get further into the heart of darkness, a sense of doom grows (accented by the blood-rushing-through-your-head score from Daniel Lopatin, who records as Oneohtrix Point Never, and John Medeski). So does the mystery of what exactly “The Curse” is.

The show owes something to the naturalistic horror of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Don’t Look Now.” Its nuanced focus on the blind spots of people who see themselves as agents of good recalls HBO’s “Enlightened.” Its Jewish themes of judgment and consequence echo the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man”; its hints of harsh and absurd cosmic forces suggest the short stories of Kafka.

It also, like “Atlanta” and the work of Jordan Peele, makes the argument that comedy and horror are separated-at-birth twins. (Kafka himself cracked up laughing while reading his stories to friends.) “The Curse” works the same dynamic of social discomfort as Fielder’s earlier work, without the continual release of laughter. But it does what good comedy does: It knocks you off balance, steals your breath, turns you upside down.

“The Curse” is disorienting and unshakable. Is it good? Remarkably — and also questionably. The first few episodes are tours de force. The middle stretch is impressive but repetitive. The rest — I’ll be honest, I am still sorting it out. The 10-episode season becomes more inscrutable as it goes on; the loose ends accumulate; Whitney is made more cruel, and Asher more pitiable.

But for days after I finished, I could not stop thinking about it, turning over its layers of meaning and poking at the lingering unease. When it’s over, I expect viewers will spend a lot of time arguing about what they’ve just seen. Like its mirrored houses, “The Curse” is an ambitious construction, but it’s not an easy place to get comfortable.

Content Source: www.nytimes.com


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