Beautiful Creatures review (Blu-ray)

Now that the Twilight series has finished its run what will next set teenage girls hearts aflutter? Step forth Beautiful Creatures, a new franchise for them to savour. This time it’s a boy who’s the mortal and a girl the ethereal oddity starting at a new school.

Ethan (Ehrenreich) is the book loving teenager who falls head over heels for new girl Lena (Englert), the niece of shady landowner Macon Ravenwood (Irons). The setting is the conservative, God fearing town of Gatlin, South Carolina, and the bible thumping southerners who live there don’t take kindly to the satanistic Ravenwoods. Is Lena a satanist? Why no, she’s a Caster. In a temper she can exert fearsome retribution with her strange powers. I can’t be bothered to go into the backstory of her existence, but suffice to say, her 16th birthday is approaching and on that day her destiny will be a fight for the Light side or the Dark Side. She’s not supposed to fall in love, but can’t help herself with personable Ethan. This complicates matters, especially when other members of her family turn up to influence the outcom.

If the overly serious and sombre Twilight cast felt like they were doing Chekov with their supernatural contrivances, then the Beautiful Creatures actors are channelling Tennessee Williams. This gothic fantasy tale is rich in campy performances and the cast rise to the challenge with gusto. They must have had a whale of a time doing this one – classy actors like Irons and Emma Thompson let rip with full throttled over-the-top glee, chewing the scenery while pulverising us with their gloriously over-ripe southern accents. Rossum is equally OTT but very sexy with it as the feisty and seductive cousin who arrives to make her mark. Davis gives a rather more measured performance as the town librarian with a secret while the two leads do everything that’s asked of them in portraying youthful ardour. Ehrenreich is very likeable and a solid presence while Englert is ideal as the very attractive, confused and vulnerable victim embarking on a big change.

The heated melodramatics take their sweet time to unfold – there’s no hustle and bustle in this southern state,  It moves to its own rhythm but then in setting up this new series there is much ground to cover. The effects are not overdone thankfully and don’t get in the way of the characters.  There is much here to entertain but is it persuasive? No. One is never quite involved enough to really care about these individuals. It’s also too long and too slow. But that said there are pleasures to be had and its target audience shouldn’t feel shortchanged.

EXTRAS ★★★ A decent six-part behind-the-scenes featurette (23:51); four deleted scenes (7:59); and three trailers plus a TV spot.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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