Last year's Dead Man On Campus was a dispiriting, unfunny mess. But perhaps its biggest problem, beyond its unremarkable cast and uninspired script, was the conflict between its dark premise and its clumsy, sitcom-like execution. The Curve has essentially the same plottwo students, played by teen-movie fixture Matthew Lillard and Never Been Kissed star Michael Vartan, plot to kill their obnoxious roommate, receive the automatic 4.0 GPA of popular mythology, and improve their chances of getting into Harvardbut this time, the film's execution is even darker and more misanthropic than the sick-joke premise. Writer-director Dan Rosen also wrote the 1995 black comedy The Last Supper, and in both films, he explores what happens when bad people do exceedingly bad things. In The Last Supper, Rosen's protagonists were murderous Leftists; in The Curve, his characters run the narrow moral gamut from vaguely creepy (Keri Russell as Vartan's girlfriend) to mildly loathsome (Vartan) to positively satanic (Lillard). Just as other films get by on sheer likability, The Curve somehow gets by on sheer loathability. It's a seriously troubled movie: Everyone in it besides Russell seems at least five years too old for his or her role, and almost none of the film's arch, self-referential gags work. Yet it remains strangely, morbidly diverting, if only because Rosen has a real knack for creating memorably unpleasant, unsettling setpieces that suggest both the black-comic sensibility of Happiness and the showy theatrics of Neil LaBute. But The Curve's biggest strength is the powerhouse lead performance by Lillard, whose over-the-top shtick (he's perpetually on the verge of breaking character) can be overbearing and obnoxious, but is put to good use here. The film never explains why Lillard's character would have any friends, but the gutsiness of his performance keeps things interesting, even if The Curve itself is little morethan a modest but well-made B-movie.