The Film: Cursed (2005)
The Principles: Written by Kevin Williamson Directed by Wes Craven Starring Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Joshua Jackson, Judy Greer, Milo Ventimiglia
The Premise: Two siblings (Ricci and Eisenberg) are bitten by a werewolf after getting in a car accident. Because this is a Kevin Williamson movie, it turns into a mystery about who the original werewolf was that attacked them. Some things happen involving the opening of a Hollywood club and the younger brother becoming cool at school and… is that enough text for the premise section? Can I stop writing now? I have to actually discuss this movie? Oh boy.
Is It Good?: When we set out to cover all of Wes Craven’s directorial efforts for Movie of the Day, I wanted to snag a couple of notable ones that I had missed. One of those was Cursed. Whenever there’s an overwhelmingly negative response to a film, I’m always intrigued to figure out exactly why that is and if it’s justified. In the case of Cursed, I get exactly why this movie was so disliked and I can’t say that the disapproval isn’t warranted. Cursed isn’t atrocious, but it is frustratingly bad.
I place the majority of the blame on screenwriter Kevin Williamson because the whole framework of the story sinks the film. That’s unfortunate because the idea of two siblings both becoming werewolves is a fun and interesting one, but the movie does next to nothing with the premise. In fact, we never actually see the two fully transform! It looks like they have one night out as full-fledged werewolves, but we only glimpse that in a hyper-kinetic and immaturely abstract dream sequence. It’s an absolute ripoff, especially when the finale of the film promises a werewolf showdown and all we get are three characters with mild parts of themselves randomly werewolvizing thanks to some of the dodgiest CGI ever.
Oof, that CGI. Poor Rick Baker just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to werewolves. The full-body suits and puppet heads that we see in the film are legitimately great (as well as one scene with a werewolf in a parking garage), but all the transformation stuff is uncomfortably cartoonish. Don’t worry though, because you won’t be seeing a whole lot of werewolfing in Cursed. Instead, you’ll be able to thank Kevin Williamson for thinking a werewolf whodunit would be more compelling than actually seeing more werewolves. It doesn’t help that Williamson tries to patch his trademarked glibness onto the most razor thin characters he’s ever written.
The worst things about Cursed (I’m sure our readers will be able to expand on this category) are the things that it actually does right and squanders. For example, this movie has a werewolf dog. A werewolf dog! In pure concept, that’s an absolute blast, but it’s jammed into the middle of a movie that is interminably boring. Another good part (this will definitely draw some criticism) is Jesse Eisenberg. While he’s certainly making the case that he has a very specific, unalterable acting style, there’s a level of commitment and involvement from Eisenberg that none of the other actors even come close to attaining. If the movie could have focused solely on him and not Christina Ricci’s utterly drab talk show assistant, I think the movie could have risen to a much more satisfying plateau.
There’s loads of potential in Cursed, but it’s all buried under a shoddy-looking production, unmotivated performances, a screenwriter who is trying to be smarter than his own movie, an obnoxious and overly intrusive score (the band Bowling for Soup opens this film with a song about Red Riding Hood, and that’s the least grating piece of music in the movie), and a weird decision to focus more on glib characters and a lazy mystery than being a good werewolf story. I will say that the film was able to sum up my feelings about it with the most poignant of images:
Random Anecdotes: The story behind the making of this film is far more intriguing than the finished product. The process of making Cursed was so prolonged that numerous cast members (some who even shot footage for the film) had to be cut due to scheduling and huge overhauls to the script. Some of these people included Skeet Ulrich, Mandy Moore, Omar Epps, Illeana Douglas, Heather Langenkamp, Scott Foley, Robert Forster, and Corey Feldman.
In the film, Christina Ricci works on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. By the time Cursed was finally released, Kilborn had the left the show and was replaced by Craig Ferguson.
For its theatrical release, the film was forced to shave off two minutes of footage in order to bump it down from an R rating to a PG-13 in the hopes that that would better its box office chances. Yeah, that’s always a good idea.
Cursed had a lower total domestic gross than the opening weekend of another film that released on the same date: Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
Cinematic Soulmates: The Howling: New Moon Rising (1995), Werewolf (1995), An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)