“Cursed” is a film which has become famous for all the wrong reasons, receiving a great deal of attention for what amounted to more than a year of production delays and re-shoots, script rewrites, FX problems and, worst of all, a last minute decision by the studio to trim out all of the visceral content in service of the teen-friendly PG-13 rating. All of these factors have drawn away from the film’s main selling point, namely that it marks the reunion of genre master Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson, the two having previously struck gold with the hugely influential and popular “Scream” series.
It has to be said that neither men has achieved much in the years since the “Scream” movies, aside from churning out sequels and some distinctly middle of the road fare, and it was hoped that “Cursed”, a hip, modern retelling of the classic werewolf legend, would give both their careers a much needed shot in the arm. Sadly, this has not been the case, and the film has been vilified by critics and genre fans alike, becoming about as popular as past Craven flops as “The Hills Have Eyes 2” and “Deadly Friend”. This is a shame, as “Cursed” is not actually as bad as many have made out, and whilst it is certainly a great disappointment given the talent involved, and indeed not a particularly good film by any standards, it remains an average, glossy slice of Hollywood teen horror.
Set in Hollywood, the plot follows Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg), siblings whose lives are thrown into chaos after they are attacked by a werewolf. Infected by the creature’s bite, the brother and sister team find themselves developing heightened senses and increased strength, not to mention an irresistible sexual magnetism. Of course, the curse has its downside, and in addition to discovering an unnerving fondness for raw meat, the two find themselves fighting for their lives as the original beast returns to wipe out its unfortunate progeny.
The first few minutes of “Cursed”, which consist of a music video style tour of Hollywood set to some lame radio friendly teen rock, are likely to make any genre fan’s heart sink, and it is immediately clear that this is not Craven at his best. This impression unfortunately continues throughout the film, with choppy editing, a distinct lack of narrative logic, and a depressing over-reliance on the oldest of genre cliché. There is nothing about the film which stands out, and as much as anything, the overall feel is that very little effort was made to produce anything other than a light, studio friendly slice of teen horror.
Whilst Craven’s direction could charitably be described as ‘anonymous’, the film’s biggest failing comes from Williamson’s script, which at times is truly cringe inducing. The “Scream” films managed to avoid being annoyingly smug only by the smallest of margins, and with “Cursed”, Williamson falls headfirst into an unpalatable mixture of unrealistic and self-referential dialogue and awful quips. He displays none of the genre-savvy approach which has marked most of his earlier writing, and instead quite happily sends his characters, half of whom blatantly have ‘kill me’ written on their backs, wandering into the same dark places he has made a living by making fun of.
The film’s much noted production problems are all too evident on screen, and a great many scenes feel badly out of place or quite at odds with the overall tone. The climax especially feels rushed, tacked on and unnecessary, completely changing the personality of one of the characters for the sake of a handful of pointless cheap scares. Another glaring fault is the special effects, which vary greatly from some fairly effective, if derivate werewolf make up to some horribly unconvincing and laughable CGI. The way that the film lurches between the two reduces any fear the beasts may have inspired, and at times rivals the infamous travesty of “An American Werewolf in Paris” in terms of sheer awfulness.
Although much has been made of the castration of the film carried out by the studio to attain a lower rating, there is no suggestion that an injection of blood and guts would actually improve matters. The simple fact is that “Cursed” at all times is quite obviously aimed at the teen demographic, as evidenced by its “Dawson’s Creek”-style casting and barrage of badly misjudged attempts at ‘cool’ zeitgeist.
As such, it is hard to criticise “Cursed” for lacking the more adult elements of horror, and for younger, less demanding viewers it is likely to be perfectly acceptable fare. The film is never boring, and moves along at a reasonable pace with a fair number of obviously telegraphed frights included to keep the viewer from falling asleep. Of course, such minor achievements are in no way enough to actually recommend the film, only to mean that it is far from being the unwatchable mess that many have suggested, and is in fact no worse than the majority of its peers.
Wes Craven (director) / Kevin Williamson (screenplay)
CAST: Portia de Rossi …. Zela
Mya …. Jenny
Shannon Elizabeth …. Becky
Christina Ricci …. Ellie
Joshua Jackson …. Jake