By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Horror-lite for teens seems to dominate at the box office now.  Following the success of the Twilight saga, the imitators have arrived trying to cash on this genre as well.  Two weeks ago, the zom-rom-com, Warm Bodies, opened and this week (February 14), the wiccan version of Twilight, a movie titled Beautiful Creatures opens.  While I am not, by any means, a huge fan of these watered down horror tales, I will give credit to the successors of the Twilight legacy, they actually are better than their inspiration.  Warm Bodies has its charms and so does Beautiful Creatures which actually feels more like a true knock-off of Twilight, but one that certainly is more palatable than the saga of sparkly teen vampires and giant CGI wolves.

Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) barely tolerates living in his tiny Southern town of Gatlin.  He just doesn’t fit in with the popular crowd and longs for life away from there once he finishes high school.  His life becomes less mundane when he becomes smitten with the new girl in town Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert).  Alice, who is even more of an outsider than Ethan, belongs to the infamous Duchannes/Ravenwood family, a mysterious and feared household whose lineage has been associated with witchcraft.

Based on the novel by authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, writer/director Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You) adapts the story for movie audiences and actually makes a somewhat entertaining and watchable film. It does have a mix of great and bad writing, as well as superb and silly performances by the cast.   I will offer some kudos to the writers in that they do develop their characters so much better than any writers involved in the Twilight saga.  In this movie world, the lead characters are just so much more likable.  Even the villains, though uber-cartoonish, make the whole experience so much fun.

I will say that I definitely have mixed feelings when it comes to the performances of the actors portraying said villains.  Emma Thompson really lets loose here as the town meddler Mrs. Lincoln, but there is more to her than meets the eye.  I found some gleeful amusement in some of her scenes, but also did grow a bit annoyed when she would go over-the-top.  Emmy Rossum grates somewhat less as the deliciously naughty vixen Ridley Duchannes.  Still, even she has her outrageous screen moments.  For a film geared toward the teenage demographic, the performances by these baddies often feel about as cartoonish as the villains in the Power Rangers TV shows. I expected a bit more sophistication from these talented actresses.

As Lena Duchannes, Alice Englert performs adequately and certainly can juggle the light and dark sides of her character well.  As her paramour, Ethan Waite, actor Alden Ehrenreich definitely has a sweet and goofy charm about him, but lays on the southern accent a bit too thick.  My two favorite performances in the movie come from Jeremy Irons who portrays the stern, but caring Uncle Macon Ravenwood and Viola Davis who plays Amma, Ethan’s caregiver.  Both have lovely screen presence and use their talents wonderfully.

It should go without saying at this point that most teenagers who enjoy these supernatural/horror-lite tales will flock to and enjoy this film. As for others, I am sure mixed reactions will result.  I can only recommend paying top dollar to those belonging to the target demographic, but I believe others should wait to rent this one.  The film does offer some entertainment value, and is worth at least one viewing.

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