Directed by Wes Craven
Produced by Marianne Maddalena
Written by Kevin Williamson
Director of Photograpy Robert McLachlan
Music by Marco Beltrami
Cast: Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, Jesse Eisenberg & Judy Greer
2005/99 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
2.40:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Dimension Home Video DVD
In the 90s, Gwyneth Paltrow was the "It Girl" at Miramax, as she starred in many of their films. Now that the studio is essentially non-existent, Christina Ricci has come to be the face of Miramax, but this is no compliment. In the past month, two films from Miramax starring Ricci have come to DVD and both have checkered pasts. PROZAC NATION was shot in 2000, and didn't see the light of day until recently, as it's a pretty bad film. CURSED began production, stopped production, was recast, reshot, and then delayed. After a brief theatrical run earlier this year, the werewolf film has come to DVD. Is it as bad as PROZAC NATION and does CURSED seal Ricci's fate as being the poster child for Miramax's house cleaning?
As CURSED opens, Ellie (Ricci) and her brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) are driving through the Hollywood hills when they are arrived in a car accident. While checking on the other driver, the siblings witness an attack by a very large animal, like a bear or a mountain lion, and they themselves are both bitten by the creature. In the ensuing days, Ellie attempts to resume her normal life as a talent coordinator for a TV talk show, while Jimmy returns to his role as high-school outcast. Ellie is also trying to resolve her relationship with her on-again/off-again boyfriend Jake (Joshua Jackson), who is busy preparing to open his "Planet Hollywood" like nightspot.
However, Ellie and Jimmy begin to experience odd symptoms, such as heightened strength and senses, as well as a desire for raw meat. In the meantime, a monstrous creature is killing people around the city. Despite his sister's doubts, Jimmy begins to suspect that the pair was attacked by a werewolf he sets out to find a way to break the curse.
CURSED represents the first re-teaming of director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson since SCREAM 2 (as Williamson isn't credited with the screenplay for SCREAM 3). Now, I know that there are a lot of horror fans who simply hate the SCREAM films, and this is a position which I've never understood. The success of SCREAM jump-started the horror genre and got Hollywood to finance fright films again. Sure, this lead to a slew of cheap slasher films, but so did the success of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH in the 80s. Granted the film had just as much humor as horror (although I still consider the finale to be very intense along the lines of RESERVOIR DOGS), but at least it was made by people with an affection for and knowledge of the genre.
Given all of this, I was looking forward to CURSED, despite the bad things that I've heard. Well, I'm happy to report that CURSED isn't a complete disaster or unwatchable. No, the problems with CURSED is that it's not special in any way at all. Those (like me) who were hoping to have Craven and Williamson re-invent the werewolf genre will find themselves stuck with a big hairy pile of mediocre. The great thing about SCREAM was that it took familiar horror movie clichés and played with them. In CURSED, the trademarks of the werewolf movie are simply presented as the story. The opening attack, the transformation scenes, the characters denial that they are changing, and the question of who is or isn’t a werewolf have all been done before, and much of the film is very similar to AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS, and in a truly embarrassing moment, the movie appears to be paying tribute to TEEN WOLF. Not only does CURSED seem to be on auto-pilot, but it misses a great opportunity. There are no less than FIVE werewolves in the film, but we never get a werewolf vs. werewolf fight, much less a five werewolf free-for-all. I hate to spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen CURSED yet, but that big werewolf smackdown that you’re waiting for never happens.
While CURSED is a huge disappointment, it isn’t all bad. Craven shows that he still knows how to shoot a horror film and there are some suspenseful scenes and a couple of nice “jump” scares here. The movie is nicely paced and never gets boring. The werewolf has a nice look and the film must be applauded for using a werewolf costume for many of the shots as opposed to going full CGI. (There is one CGI transformation which looks awful.) The cast of familiar faces are all fine, with the under-utilized Joshua Jackson being the stand-out. As a Wes Craven fan and someone who truly enjoyed the SCREAM films (OK, maybe not SCREAM 3), CURSED can only be seen as a let-down. It certainly isn’t an awful movie, but in the pantheon of werewolf movies, it’s easily forgettable.
CURSED howls onto DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Video. The film has come to DVD in two versions, one rated PG-13 and the other unrated. For the purposes of this review, only the unrated version was viewed. (More on this in a moment.) The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain or any defects from the source material. The colors look good and the framing appears to be accurate. The image is a bit dark at times and there is some notable edge enhancement. The DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track sounds fine, as it provide clear dialogue and music reproduction. The surround sound and subwoofer channels are kept busy by this track and the attack scenes are brimming with bone-shaking bass and effective surround effects.
As noted above, the unrated version was screened for this review. This version runs some two minutes longer than the PG-13 cut. I haven’t seen the shorter cut, but I can say that there were some choice gore moments in the unrated version, most notably the first murder. There’s nothing here that wouldn’t have appeared in an R-rated cut, but several of the bloody moments would have (hopefully) been too rough for PG-13. If you’re going to see this film, see the unrated version.
The DVD contains an odd jumble of extras, which point to the fact that Craven and Williamson have most likely distanced themselves from this project. “Behind the Fangs: The Making of CURSED” (8 minutes) contains no direct comments from Craven, but it does have some quotes from other cast members. There are some nice behind-the-scenes shots of the wolf suit, but the segment contains many spoilers, so don’t watch it first. In “The CURSED Effects” (7 minutes) Special Effects Makeup Supervisor Greg Nicotero of KNB and Derek Mears, who plays the werewolf discuss the suit and take a look at the film’s gore effects. Craven’s long-time editor Patrick Lussier talks about cutting the film for a PG-13 in “Creature Editing 101” (6 minutes). “Becoming a Werewolf” (8 minutes) is an odd little short film made by Jesse Eisenberg in which he and Nicotero try to catch a werewolf. Finally we have four scenes which have commentary by Nicotero and Mears.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©