Where do we find entertainment these days? On our laptops and in our living rooms. The streaming options are overwhelming — and not always easy to sort through. So, in this weekly feature, I review a movie or series that might otherwise be easy to overlook.
Where to see it:
The top of a bell tower pokes bizarrely from a lake in Curon, Italy, part of a village that was drowned beneath the sparkling waves. The tower’s bells have been removed, but sometimes, locals say, people still hear them ring. Then bad things happen.
Something bad happened to Anna (Valeria Bilello) when she was a teen — a nightmarish experience that ended with her mother dead. Now an older Anna returns from Milan to the hotel her father owns in Curon, fleeing an abusive husband with her teenage twins, Daria (Margherita Morchio) and Mauro (Federico Russo).
Their grandfather is cryptic and forbidding, reluctant to let them stay even a night in his hotel. Mauro begins to suspect why when he makes a chilling discovery in one of the vacant rooms. Meanwhile, brash Daria tries to impress her country-mouse classmates, inadvertently setting in motion a chain of events that will spell disaster for at least three families in Curon.
Will you like it?
I’m a sucker for a subgenre of streaming TV that I call “haunted Euroburgs.” Inspired to a greater or lesser extent by “Twin Peaks,” these European-made dramas combine supernatural doings with soapy revelations in highly scenic rural locales. All abound in mysteries, secrets, impossibilities, portentous speeches, magic light and trance-y music montages.
Arriving in the wake of two previous haunted-Euroburg dramas that deserved all the acclaim they received (see below), “Curon” feels a bit like a network knockoff of a cable hit. Don’t look here for the intricate plotting of “Dark” or the powerful characterization of “The Returned.” Viewers may find themselves regularly a step ahead of the plot, and even groaning at familiar tropes. (What does a bad-seed character do? Harm a pet.)
Predictability aside, “Curon” is a perfectly serviceable watch for fans of these shows. There’s some teen flirting, some bloodshed, spooky caves and bunkers, symbolically freighted wolves, and the occasional reflection on what it really means to posit that everyone has a light and a dark side. (What if the two sides aren’t so easy to tell apart?) With any luck, a second season will take those ambiguities further.
“The Returned” (2012-15; two seasons on Amazon Prime Video): In this French series, people who have been dead for years or decades stroll back into their small mountain town with no memory of any afterlife. How? Why? Most importantly, how will their loved ones, who already adjusted to their loss, adjust to their return? Bypass the American remake and watch the eerie original (“Les Revenants”) with subtitles.
“Dark” (2017-20; three seasons on Netflix): A father’s suicide. A young boy’s disappearance. These events in a small German town usher us into an ever-more-complex narrative involving time travel, secret societies, the Nazi legacy and a looming nuclear power plant. Unless you take notes and make diagrams, you may soon be lost, but you can still enjoy the moody montages.
“Black Spot” (2017-19; two seasons on Netflix): The titular setting is a forest so deep, remote and spooky that it has no cell coverage, yet it somehow boasts a murder rate six times the national average. In this French drama, more episodic and procedural than its peers, the local police chief and a big-city prosecutor attempt to find out why.