Wednesday 12 March 2008

Cursed (2005)

Wednesday 12 March 2008
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson

Cast: Christina Ricci (Ellie), Jesse Eisenberg (Jimmy), Joshua Jackson (Jake), Judy Greer (Joanie), Mya (Jenny Tate), Michael Rosenbaum (Kyle), Milo Ventimiglia (Bo), Portia de Rossi (Zela), Kristina Anapau (Brooke), Shannon Elizabeth (Becky Morton), Michelle Krusiec (Debbie), Scott Baio (Himself), Craig Kilborn (Himself) & Lance Bass (Himself)

Two siblings are bitten by a werewolf after a car accident and find themselves "cursed"...

A werewolf movie from the writer and director of Scream, starring another eclectic bunch of sexy teens and fresh-faced twentysomethings, and featuring the work of Rick Baker (award-winning creator of the make-up effects in An American Werewolf In London). Are you salivating like a rabid wolf? If so, prepare yourself for the mangy dog of teen-horror...

TV producer Ellie (Christina Ricci) and her gawky brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) are involved in a two-car crash caused by a (were)wolf leaping into their windscreen. While trying to rescue Becky (Shannon Elizabeth) -- the woman whose car they overturned down a hillside -- the wolf-beast returns and drags Becky away for dinner, scratching Ellie and Jimmy in an ensuing game of tug o' war.

As if you couldn't guess, Ellie and Jimmy's injuries mean they're now "cursed" by The Mark Of The Beast (each get a pentangle of marks on their palms), and have their senses heightened to not-so-interesting effect. Jimmy is able to thwart gay-bashing bully Bo (a pre-Heroes Milo Ventimiglia) at homo-erotic wrestling, while Ellie just starts sniffing out colleagues with nose-bleeds.

This being a Kevin Williamson script, there is a plethora of horror in-jokes – although all are blatant and tedious, sucking enjoyment from the spotting. For example: Ellie's boyfriend Jake (Joshua Jackson) works at a nightclub full of horror icon mannequins (don't ask) – so if seeing a waxwork of Lon Chaney's Wolf Man in a werewolf film elicits a giggle... then you'll giggle. Boris Karloff's Monster, Max Shreck's Nosferatu, Robert Englund's Freddy Kruger (hee-hee, Wes Craven is the director); they're all there for pointless rib-poking.

The gist of Cursed's plot is reheated Scream – with the villain's identity to be unmasked Scooby Doo-style in a hall-of-mirrors climax where teens run around the spooky nightclub (zoinks!), before a protracted double-ending finds Ellie and Jimmy grappling with another wolfman at home.

The whole movie intentionally and accidentally reminds you of better films: it has the basic ingredients of Scream, the wolf from An American Werewolf In Paris (sadly), a plot-point thieved from Lost Boys (vampire lore rubs shoulders everywhere), a gypsy prophecy courtesy of The Wolf Man, the whiff of Teen Wolf in Jimmy's high school gym antics, etc.

Cursed's disjointed trashiness comes from director Wes Craven, who slips back into his early-90s career-coma here. However, Craven at least has the excuse that re-shoots were forced on him by producers the Weinsteins, who didn't like the R-rated horror Craven delivered, and wanted a PG-13 product to maximise box-office profitability...

The film was delayed for over a year as Craven tinkered with it; a process that meant he had to recast unavailable actors (Mya replaced Mandy Moore), or cut their characters altogether. The original cut actually had three strangers coming together at the scene of a wolf-related road accident (Scream's Skeet Ulrich, Ricci and Eisenberg), but Ulrich's character had to be dropped when the actor couldn't make the re-shoots – therefore necessitating the need for Ricci and Eisenberg to become brother and sister. Hence their lack of family resemblance, folks! Appearances from Scott Foley, Robert Forster, Heather Langenkamp, Corey Feldman, and others, all wound up on the cutting room floor, too.

It's unfortunate the Weinstein's chose to meddle with Cursed after it had been made, as any problems should have been identified at the script and pre-production phase. But, who's to say Craven's original cut wasn't just awful (in different ways), and the Weinstein's demand for re-shoots wasn't justified? It seems to me that the problems stemmed from the loss/recasting of actors, and the knock-on effect of re-writes to explain their excision. It all conspired to turn Cursed into a disorganized, limp, ineffective, tonally-awkward mess.

Unless there's demand for Craven's first cut to be made available in a future DVD release, I don't think we'll ever know if the Weinsteins were right, or wrong, in their decision-making. But is there any demand, 3 years later? I don't think so. And it's very hard to imagine Cursed being improved by reinserting Ulrich, Moore and Feldman!

What we do know is the final cut of Cursed is a dumb morass of pop-culture that strains to be either funny or scary. There are a few nice shots of the werewolf (love its hind legs under the car), and you can imagine Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson and Jesse Eisenberg being quite good in a different edit, but everything else is only watchable as a bad-film curio.

This film includes a scene where a werewolf is lured out of hiding by someone criticizing its human form's beauty, before it gives cops the one-finger salute! I mean, seriously, it's a struggle to remember anything that hits the mark. How about a bizarre cameo from someone the teen audience probably won't recognize? Step forward Happy Days' Scott Baio!

This is a werewolf flick where nobody bitten actually turns into a werewolf -- their stomachs just wobble, and their pupils dilate. 'Nuff said.

Dimension Films
Budget: $38 million
97 minutes

PICTURE: 2.35:1 | SOUND: DTS / Dolby Digital 5.1 / SDDS