Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Kevin Williamson
Starring: Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Shannon Elizabeth, Portia De Rossi, Joshua Jackson
Released: 2005 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
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It seems a little pretentious, almost too easy, for the team that introduced a whole generation to the slasher film, to continue to tread very familiar ground with their post-mod posturing and teen-angst, 18-30 styled preaching. It isn’t like self-reference and pop-culture has passed them by before as what was perfected in Scream, was a craft honed by director Wes Craven in A New Nightmare, and writer Kevin Williamson in his television series Dawson’s Creek. More to the point, it’s all too mundanely workmanlike for them to continue to take stabs at genre films.
While both Craven and Williamson were able to make it work a second time quite handsomely – together on Scream 2, and Williamson alone on Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty – things got decidedly average with Scream 3 and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
So here they are again with their take on the werewolf movie but there’s a distinct feeling of being there, done that, proving the breed of lycanthrope is no different, it has just changed cities. Yet, when consideration is given to the film’s troubled production with re-edits and re-writes being assembled on-demand, it’s rather commendable that Craven has still been able to produce a reasonably enjoyable horror movie. It’s just the Craven/Williamson inventiveness has become a cliché in itself and when the end credits roll they’ve wet your appetite but left the main course in the kitchen.
Cursed doesn’t enter a world over-saturated with werewolf pictures which is perhaps why it is far more easy to pick holes in it, than say Scream, which was probably the one-millionth slasher film to come out of American cinema. Fans of the genre will be quick to compare it to other movies and they’ll unfortunately find it’s more An American Werewolf In Paris than London. But, Paris was an enjoyable sequel nevertheless and in much the same way, Cursed has its moments of lycanthropic madness. But whereas the king of the genre, John Landis’ An American Werewolf In London, has such staying power, Cursed is a movie that vacates your consciousness just as quick as it went in.
Indeed, Craven and Williamson’s film has such a cold feeling of ostentation, as if they just want to play with the ideals of the werewolf myth and the genre simply because they can. That is an easy deterrent and a difficult pill to swallow, but even the most casual fan will see through the filmmaker’s pretentiousness knowing that such a right can only be deserved recently if your name is John Fawcett or Neil Marshall.
In Cursed, brother and sister, Jimmy and Ellie (Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci) are returning home when they hit something in the road (sound familiar?). Consequently swerving, they crash into another car which falls over the hillside, so they wander into the darkness to help the driver. However, as Jesse is helping the girl out of the car, something smashes through the windscreen and drags her away, with Jesse and Ellie being dragged along behind. Of course, they both get scratched by this mysterious beast and start having strange cravings and begin to howl at the moon. As they start to believe they may actually be turning into werewolves, they wonder if there is any hope that they may return to normal life. But through some overt exposition, we’re told if they kill the one that started the curse, then they will be free of it. The only problem is finding that person before it’s too late.
The film is a tidy package of special-effects and pretty actors, set against the backdrop of colourful Los Angeles. It’s most redeeming feature is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously which is the main draw of the film, and there’s a great moment involving a certain werewolf making a retort to Ricci’s character’s proclamation that it has a bony ass, which will have at least a few people throwing up with laughter. Certainly Craven chucks in enough decent laughs, and his trademark style is written all over a quality dream sequence, and the initial run-in with the werewolf, but unfortunately much of the film is haphazard and rather uninspired. The homosexual sub-plot involving Jesse and the whole idea of a teenager coming to terms with being a werewolf was done much better, and was far funnier, in Teen Wolf, while the film lacks enough good scares, pacing itself more like snappy comedy than a suspenseful horror. The script rewrites probably didn’t help the character development, leaving scenes sapped of tension because we simply don’t care, while Portia De Rossi’s character Zela, the fortune teller, is simply a fleeting piece of heavy-handed exposition who pops up when the filmmakers can’t be bothered to devise any other way of propelling the narrative.
But yet it isn’t all bad, as Cursed doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. The actors deliver their performances with fangs firmly lodged in cheeks – Christina Ricci is a fine scream-queen, whilst Jesse Eisenberg is an amusing actor who has enough ‘quirk’ to provide his character with more than one dimension. It’s criminal really that Craven and Williamson should turn in such uninteresting work given their portfolios which is what probably taints the movie more than the film itself, since certain expectations are not met. But while the film has its obvious flaws, it’s still entertaining. Perhaps the most potent argument is that the werewolf film is a tough genre to crack, the majority of attempts range from the poor to the average to the ridiculous. Of course, every so often there’s the odd something special with the likes of Marshall’s Dog Soldiers and Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps, but maybe when Craven and Williamson’s heads exit their own arses, they’ll realise this is one genre they can’t chew on.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews