Cupid (1997): The Lexicon of Love

Prolific DTV producer Pierre David shoots a (somewhat) poisoned arrow to Matty’s heart.

Nowadays, with its plot involving a lovelorn, book-obsessed stalker, CUPID comes across as a kind of precursor to the hit Netflix series You. However, those au fait with Cupid’s exec producer, Canadian B-movie machine Pierre David, will know better: this workmanlike thriller is really an agreeable if inferior remix of David’s earlier cult favourite Pin (1988), anchored by the same themes of madness, murder, and incest. Sadly, such a promising-sounding pile-up of deliciously disturbing ideas — classic gothic horror, truly — is neutered by flat presentation.

Cupid is well made. Though never the most style-driven of directors, Doug Campbell gets a great deal of mileage from the film’s symbolic red and blue colour scheme, and he snags all the shots he needs to tell a cohesive and engaging story. However, Campbell’s merciless efficiency robs Cupid of any semblance of pomp and the required ick factor. The tension fizzes about as much as your average episode of Coronation Street; the disappointingly gore-free murders committed by the film’s lead, a psychotic suitor named Eric (Gremlins (1984) star Zach Galligan, who’d later team with Campbell on The Tomorrow Man (2000/02)), as he worms his way into the life of Jennifer (Ashley Laurence) are competently done — no more, no less; the grim sexual proclivities of Eric and his equally tapped sister, Dana (Body Chemistry’s (1990) Mary Crosby), are reduced to a disposable line or two; and a particularly compelling notion suggested by David Benullo’s script — that Dana might be a figment of Eric’s imagination — is swiftly dropped after the first act.

Still, Cupid is very watchable. At its core is an interesting and surprisingly literary premise: Eric is fixated with Apuleius’ tale of Cupid and Psyche, and is convinced that it holds the key to his own unattainable desire to find the perfect love, consequences be damned. Galligan and Crosby submit excellent and genuinely creepy turns, and their interplay is fantastic. The bulk of the drama unfolds at the orphaned Eric and Dana’s stately homestead, and Galligan and Crosby spike their mannered verbal exchanges and predatory movements with a stirring sense of menace that perfectly emphasises how easily either of them can flip at a moment’s notice. And while the supremely talented Laurence is ill-served by a thankless two-dimensional part that, for much of Cupid’s duration, requires her to simply kowtow to Eric, the nicely judged sequence where the penny drops for her does facilitate an exciting climax that fans of the Hellraiser (1987) heroine could interpret as a Barker homage of sorts given its gloomy attic setting — but, then again, the aforementioned Pin wasn’t that far removed from Hellraiser in terms of mood and basic narrative elements, was it?

Cupid was released on U.S. video by Live Entertainment on 11th February 1997 and landed on cassette here in the U.K. two months later via First Independent.

USA ● 1997 ● Thriller ● 91mins

Zach Galligan, Ashley Laurence, Mary Crosby ● Dir. Doug Campbell ● Wri. David Benullo

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