A gorgeous teen seductress works her wiles on a pair of hapless teenage boys in Marco Weber’s muddled, Malibu-set thriller that’s never as scary or exciting as it pretends to be. While Gia Mantegna (daughter of actor Joe) makes a strong impression as the sexy would-be femme fatale, California Scheming pales in comparison to the average teen-oriented drama to be found on The CW.
Best friends Nick (Devon Werkheiser) and Jason (Spencer Daniels) are immediately smitten by new girl Chloe (Mantegna) after they meet her on the beach near the house in which she’s living with her neglectful mother (Claudia Christian). Quickly making out with both of them, much to their astonishment and delight, she quickly proves her eccentricity by making a leash-bound pet of an injured seagull.
They also make friends with the sweet and shy Hilary (Rachel Seifirth), an out-of-towner staying with relatives after her mother’s recent death. Disparaging the virginal Hilary by referring to her as both “Amish” and “Mary Poppins,” Chloe has little use for her other than as a pawn in her devilish manipulations.
Chloe, who keeps a picture of Charles Manson on the wall — she thinks he’s “sexy” — and professes to admire porn star Sasha Grey for her self-empowerment while disparaging Miley Cyrus, is clearly a troubled figure, as evidenced by her habit of cutting herself. Introducing her new friends to a world of drugs and petty crimes, she’s clearly a bad influence, although the two young men are too dazzled to notice, at least for a while.
While the film had the potential to be a nastily effective B-movie thriller, writer/director Weber never really takes the story in the necessarily provocative direction that would have provided at least some guilty pleasure. Despite the effective performances by its young lead performers, California Scheming mainly comes across as half-baked.
Opens: Friday, Jan. 31 (Gravitas Ventures)
Production: Rapid Eye Film
Cast: Gia Mantegna, Devon Werkheiser, Spencer Daniels, Rachel Seiferth, Claudia Christian, Chad Lowe
Director/screenwriter: Marco Weber
Producers: Marco Weber, Anne Caroline Weber
Executive producers: Olcun Tan, Thomas Tannenberger, Joshua Solerwitz, Elyse Estrada
Director of photography: Damien Steck
Editors: Russell Anderson, Marco Weber
Costume designer: Susan Chan
Composer: Ben Lukas Boysen
Rated R, 99 minutes