Ellie (Christina Ricci) and her brother, Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) are trying to deal with life after the death of their parents. Ellie works as a Talent Producer for “The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn”. Jimmy is a gawky teenager who has to deal with those pressures. Ellie visits her boyfriend, Jake (Joshua Jackson, sporting a lot of facial hair), at his new nightclub, Tinsel. The club, located on “The Strip”, seems to be a mix of Hollywood Wax Museum and goth hangout. Wax replicas of people like Whoopi Goldberg sit alongside the Wolfman. Yes, I can tell the difference. Jake is pushing to get his nightclub opened and rebuffs Ellie’s advances, upsetting her. Driving home, along Mullholland Drive, Ellie and Jimmy are having an argument when a large animal hits their windshield. Ellie swerves the car and knocks another car off the road. They climb down the hillside to the accident, to help the driver. Becky (Shannon Elizabeth), is trapped upside down by her seatbelt. They finally manage to get her free when the large animal grabs her and pulls her out, cutting Jimmy and Ellie with it’s claws. The police arrive and tell them that Becky was torn to pieces. Soon, brother and sister are eating raw meat and scaring the dogs in the neighborhood. Will they become werewolves? If they do, will they be able to kill the “Lead Werewolf” who started everything, thereby setting themselves free?
“Cursed”, directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson. is basically a remake of “Scream 3”, with werewolves replacing the masked killer. Yes, “Scream 3”, the least successful installment of their popular franchise. The filmmakers have created a movie with a couple of scary moments and an overly long finale. Good, better than most, but not good enough.
The actors are used like dolls by the filmmakers to map out the action. “Scream” was so strong, partially, because it took lesser known actors and TV stars and gave them roles they could have fun with. The roles didn’t require much of a stretch and we had fun watching Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox run around. In “Cursed”, the lead is played by Christina Ricci. Ricci is completely different from the other two performers. Ricci has starred in some great independent films and has already earned a name for herself. In “Cursed”, she plays a character that is a victim, for most of the film, she has little else to do and her character is boring. The rest of the cast is about par for a film like this.
A film like this is only going to be as good as the writer and director. Craven manages to create two scenes that have some actual suspense. Is this enough for you? To satisfy me, these scenes would have to be Janet-Leigh-“Psycho”-Shower-Scene-scary or Drew-Barrymore-beginning-of-“Scream”-scary. Neither comes close to approaching that. The first scene, involving Shannon Elizabeth is missing a crucial element. Yes, she is in danger, but we don’t know who she is, she’s just another woman in danger. Because we don’t identify with her, it’s difficult to care about what happens to her. The second scene, involving the singer Mya, is more successful. Craven uses low camera angles and a couple of shots of a werewolf to create some real suspense. The rest of the film is pretty slow. Talk, talk, talk. A couple of brief moments when Ellie and Jimmy attempt to deal with the changes in their bodies are interesting, but tame.
Williamson, in particular, is not on his “A Game” with this film. He really misses the boat with the character of Jimmy. Because both Ellie and Jimmy are cut by the animal, they become infected and start changing. However, there is almost no relationship created between Jimmy’s changes and the fact that he is a gawky teenager whose body would normally be changing. He gets stronger. That’s about it. He also telegraphs virtually every scene before hand, robbing the film of a lot of suspense. A prolonged visit to Tinsel ensures that a major event will take place there. The nightclub is really an odd mishmash as well. The logo and the initial visit would lead us to believe that it would be the perfect place for a goth revival. Over subsequent visits, we see a Diva room, TV characters, a wax figure of Whoopi Goldberg. It just isn’t consistent. Also, every character becomes a possibility for “Lead Werewolf”. By the way, as soon as we know this fact, we know that someone will not be who they seem. And the fact that every character could be the “Lead Werewolf” will point most viewers to the identity of this character much sooner than the writer would probably like.
Also, once the villain identifies themselves, Williamson still attempts to throw suspicion on other characters. Not only is this completely useless, but it’s sloppy and bad storytelling.
The cameos by Craig Killborn and Scott Baio inject a brief sense of wackiness into the proceedings. Both are abandoned and not carried through to their full potential. I get the sense that Kilborn had at least one more scene, but for some reason, it was cut out.
Williamson, who is openly gay, has created one of the most laughably stereotypical subplots in recent memory.
Craven does a serviceable job. The story, such as it is, is told in a quick, efficient manner. It seems like some scenes were edited out, or down. Craven has directed some of the most successful horror films of all time. I would guess that he has earned the right of final cut, at least for his horror films. Why would he cut some scenes that might make the film stronger?
“Cursed” is definitely a mixed effort. You can wait for the video.