Cursed / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()
For those of you not hip to the adrenaline-addled giddiness one receives from sitting through an excruciatingly shitty movie for its hedonistic pleasures, I can’t imagine a better place to start than Cursed, a movie-going experience akin to watching on in disbelief as your ninth-grade buddy takes your dollar bet and gulps down a blended concoction of meatloaf, soda, ketchup, mustard, syrup, butter, vinegar, raw egg, soy sauce, macaroni and cheese, coffee grounds, and mayonnaise, and then giggles through his dry heaves. What he left splattered on the floor seconds before is probably an apt analogy for what Cursed is: blended chunks of celluloid bile, gastric juices, and the decayed remnants of Christina Ricci’s acting career.
That isn’t to say that Wes Craven’s meteoric descent into unintentional campy horror isn’t worth the price of admission — it’s worth every cent, especially if you can find an audience populated by blissfully wasted college kids who can guide you through the experience by laughing in all the wrong places — appreciatively drowning out most of the film’s dialogue - and jumping out of their seats at every loud noise.
Cursed, which was originally scheduled for release in August 2003, once starred, among others, Omar Epps, Scott Foley, Mandy Moore, James Brolin, Illeana Douglas, Wilmer Calderon, and Robert Forster, with cameo appearances from Corey Feldman and Freddie Prinze, Jr. Plagued by script difficulties, poor ratings from test audiences, and the ire of Bob Weinstein, Cursed was rewritten, recast, and re-shot just a few months ago, wiping out what I can only imagine was a blood-soaked camp masterpiece on par with the original Final Destination, and leaving in its wake a tamer version, scaling back the washed-up actor cameos and the gory deaths, which most assuredly would have involved the fantastically delightful mauling of Mandy Moore.
More unfortunate is that what we are left with in the current incarnation of the Cursed cast is primarily Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Joshua (“Pacey”) Jackson, a wasted cameo from Scott Baio, and an appearance from Shannon Elizabeth, who does what she does best: dies a painfully violent death in the opening scenes of a movie and quickly disappears. (I am most bitter at the disappearance of the underappreciated Scott Foley, who has lately been relegated to guest appearances on the dreadful Fox drama, “House.”)
The plot — as conceived by Kevin Williamson (Scream, Killing Mrs. Tingle) — is almost nonexistent and beside the point, anyway; it concerns Ellie Hudsdon (Ricci), a talent agent for the late, unlamented “Craig Kilborn Show” — allowing Kilborn to make a last on-screen appearance before quickly disappearing into oblivion — whose parents died a grisly death leaving her to care for her high-school aged brother, Jimmy (Eisenberg) and their golden retriever, Zippy (Solar), who manages to turn in the only convincing performance in the entire film. After a car accident and werewolf mauling that leaves the aforementioned Shannon Elizabeth in a body bag separated into two halves, Ellie and Jimmy are bitten, giving them newfound powers that allow Jimmy to live out his Teen Wolf fantasies and Ricci to finally put to good use her alien-shaped forehead during some poorly conceived werewolf transformation scenes.
Unfortunately, after a few days, their lupine powers become bothersome when Ellie snaps at her coworkers and Jimmy’s werewolvian allure, to his dismay, draws a defensively homophobic wrestling jock out of the closet. Thanks to a few Google searches and some expert online probing, Jimmy learns that the only way to rid themselves of the curse is to kill the werewolf that attacked them, resulting in Williamson’s Scream-like search for the killer, complete with absurd and not-so-absurd red herrings, a nice body count, and a surprising but ultimately unsatisfying reveal.
The movie’s value, however, is not in unwrapping the identity of the killer; rather, it is in the terrible acting, the painfully bad script, and the incompetent direction of the self-described “master of horror,” Wes Craven, who hasn’t directed a decent movie since the original Scream, and nothing to speak of horror-wise since People Under the Stairs.
The movie’s real source of pleasure, however, may be in the special effects. Despite 23 years of new technology, Rick Baker — who masterfully created the terrifying werewolf in 1981’s low-tech American Werewolf in London — manages to take six leaps backward in Cursed, creating a lupine monster that strikes all the fear of a Country Bear with fangs; there is absolutely nothing terrifying about this creature except its ability to elicit laughter from the audience.
Indeed, twenty minutes into Cursed, one of the stoned teenagers sitting behind me uttered in incredulity, “This movie has got to be a joke.” Intentional or not, that’s what Cursed ultimately amounts to: a two-hour joke with no punch line that, in spite of itself, is the funniest movie so far this year.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.