The name of Gatlin would appear to be cursed; in 1984, the children of Gatlin, Nebraska, butchered their parents in the name of He Who Walks Behind The Rows in hopes of restoring their corn harvest, and now, in Gatlin, South Carolina, young adults are again worshipping a dark power, emulating it and following in its footsteps instead of finding their own voices and the empowerment of individuality. That dark force is the shadow which Stephanie Meyer casts over this film, adapted from the first book of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Caster Chronicles, which desperately wants to be the continuation of the movie franchise that sprang from Meyer’s Twilight books. A new saga is about to begin, and with it the nightmare starts over.
Teenager Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrereich) is tortured by recurring nightmares about black haired girl, and returning to school on the first day of the new term he meets and soon loses his heart to the newly transferred Lena (Alice Alden). She is the niece of Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), current head of the founding family of Gatlin, who for generations have been accused of witchcraft and devil worship by the residents of Gatlin, now led by the God loving Mavis Lincoln (Emma Thompson), sadly underused as the sole standout performer in a film of suffocating mediocrity.
Spending time with Lena, Ethan soon notices strange occurrences around her, windows breaking, bulbs shorting out, lightning strikes, and saving him from a mystical attack, Lena reveals to him that her family are Casters, gifted with supernatural powers, and that on her sixteenth birthday she is destined to be claimed by the powers of light or dark, a curse that can only be broken if they are united in their efforts to save her.
Unfortunately, rather than pushing forward, the narrative builds too slowly, the audience overdosing on the sickly confection of the prelude to Lena’s birthday, forced to endure sentimental anecdotes from Ethan and Lena’s childhoods and vapid arboreal proclamations of teenage infatuation. Attempts to give the characters depth via digressions on the relative merits of Vonnegut and Bukowski fail to distract from the lack of any progression in the plot.
The movie raises interesting ideas such as the power of books as a catalyst of positive change and progress and the contrast of the two worlds of the pseudo-Christian townsfolk, conservative and narrow minded with the liberal, new age outlook of the Ravenwoods, but all this is drowning in the ocean of melodramatic kitsch and second rate special effects, the sole exception being the magical duel during the dinner party duel sequence.
Beneath the gloss, Beautiful Creatures is a generic love story into which elements of magic have been introduced only to sell the movie to the generation who made the Harry Potter and Twilight films global successes. While the characters manipulate the weather, changing people into puppets and throwing spells all over Gatlin, sadly director Richard LaGravenese is unable to put a spell on his audience.
Unlike the children of Gatlin, Nebraska, these are not the Children of the Corn so much as the Children of the Quorn; a manufactured attempt to recreate something genuine, which in the hands of a skilled artist could have been every bit as enjoyable, but which is sadly lacking all the other ingredients which would indicate inspiration or originality.