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Thursday, July 20, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Lame thriller `In Crowd' is all out of originality

Seattle Times movie reviewer

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Movie review

X "The In Crowd," with Susan Ward, Lori Heuring, Matthew Settle. Directed by Mary Lambert, from a script by Mark Gibson and Philip Halprin. 95 minutes. Alderwood, City Centre, East Valley 13, Everett 9, Galleria 11, Gateway, Longston 14, Redmond Town Center, Southcenter. "PG-13" - Parental guidance advised because of violence, sexuality, language and drug content.

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This tepid Warner Bros. thriller plays like the country-club version of "Leave Her to Heaven," with Susan Ward, a soap veteran from Aaron Spelling's "Sunset Beach," playing the murderous femme fatale.

The moody heroine, Adrien (Lori Heuring), wants only to be anonymous after a stay in St. Anastasia Psychiatric Hospital. But her new job as a staff member at the Cliffmont Country Club makes that difficult.

"It's not a life, it's a J. Crew catalog," claims one of her co-workers. Adrien is quickly recruited by the devious Brittany (Ward) to join her clique, but Brittany vigorously withdraws the welcome wagon when Adrien attracts the interest of tennis pro Matt (Matthew Settle).

Brittany is so obviously wicked, from the first glimpse we get of her, that there's nowhere for Ward to take her, except over the top. The rest of the cast seems to have been recruited for their "Baywatch" credentials, though the swimsuit scenes are few.

The only name actor is Tess Harper (a 1986 supporting-actress Oscar nominee for "Crimes of the Heart"), wasted as the none-too-bright head of St. Anastasia.

The director, Mary Lambert, is best-known for directing "Pet Sematary," but she generates almost no tension. She frames several scenes in a haphazard way, as if "The In Crowd" were already being reframed for television - with the result that character's noses sometimes move in and out of frame while they're speaking. Intentional or not, it looks like a mistake.

One of the writers, Mark Gibson, studied with film critic Andrew Sarris at Columbia University. The only surprising plot twist appears to be lifted from the 1919 German expressionistic classic, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," but it's abandoned almost as soon as it's introduced.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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