Wes Craven ‘Cursed’ falls short of potential

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Flawed production leads to disappointing results for collaboration between ‘Scream’ creative team of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson

2005’s Cursed seemed to have all the elements of a great horror film, at least on paper. For starters, it was written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven, the same creative duo behind the wildly popular Scream series. Scream was a game-changer in horror and helped jump-start Craven’s career after a period of stagnation. When the deal was signed for Cursed, I’m sure the thought was that the duo would create screen magic again, popularizing the werewolf genre in the same way that Scream revived the slasher genre.

Unfortunately, there seemed to be a number of production setbacks that doomed Cursed from the start. In fact, the original cut of Cursed featured an entirely different plot and cast of actors. Due to a number of setbacks most of the film had to be re-written and re-shot, leaving perhaps relatively little of the film’s initial DNA. Left on the cutting room floor were contributions from Illeana Douglas, Heather Langenkamp, Scott Foley, Omar Epps, Robert Forster, James Brolin and Corey Feldman. After being completely re-shot, Cursed was then edited further to achieve a PG-13 rating.

Films with such significant production problems seldom end up being great, and Cursed is no exception. The plot centers around a brother and sister Jimmy and Ellie (Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci) who are bit by a werewolf after a deadly car accident. As they too start to become werewolves, they must unravel the mystery of who bit them and why. Jimmy is also dealing with some bullying issues at school, while Ellie has her own boyfriend troubles to be concerned about. As the movie progresses, it seems there’s more to boyfriend Jake (Joshua Jackson) than meets the eye.

Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg in the 2005 film 'Cursed' by Wes Craven. Image: Dimension Films.

Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg in the 2005 horror film ‘Cursed’ by Wes Craven. Image: Dimension Films.

Eisenberg shines in one of his first major film roles, 5 years before his break-through in The Social Network. He has great comedic timing and is a natural for portraying nerdy geek types. Ricci is also equally strong. She didn’t have much to work with plot-wise, but she has a natural mysterious beauty that fits well for this type of supernatural role. Other stars featured in bit parts include Scott Baio (as himself), Craig Kilborn (as himself) and Portia de Rossi.

The result is an odd mix of horror, comedy and teenage angst that never fully decides what it wants to be and leaves the audience confused as well. Is this film supposed to be scary? It is supposed to be funny? Cursed does have some clever dialogue, decent special effects and some generally good acting. The plot can be difficult to follow, though, and there is choppy editing at times. In general, it seems like a movie that was cut-and-pasted together and this is the best they could come up with. It’s not the worst movie ever made, but it’s certainly not the best either. It’s just a shame that the team of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven couldn’t duplicate the creative and commercial success of Scream.

This review is of the PG-13 theatrical release of the film. There does exist an “unrated” version, which would basically be the R-rated version that was released in other markets, such as Canada. The PG-13 version is 97 minutes; the unrated version is 99 minutes. There is 2 minutes and 20 seconds difference between the two versions. Generally, I always prefer the unrated versions, but it’s hard to imagine 2 minutes making that big a difference either way. The differences between the two versions are discussed at Movie-Censorship.com.



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