Cursed Movie Review

Although Arrested Development's Portia De Rossi and Judy Greer co-star in the werewolf mishmash Cursed, fellow Arrested cast member and erstwhile Teen Wolf Jason Bateman is nowhere to be found. Too bad; this horror-comedy could use a little more deadpan in its comedy, and a little more anything in its horror.

Really, both should've been covered when Miramax reunited Scream's writer and director, Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven. In the Scream trilogy, these uneven artists brought out the best in each other: Williamson's overwritten self-referential dialogue felt smarter braced against Craven-directed tension, which flourished with funny and likable characters. Cursed starts with the likable characters, and then jams on the brakes.

After a violent encounter with a mysterious beast, orphaned siblings Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) find themselves developing eerie powers, waking up in strange places, seeing strange marks on their bodies, and so on. It doesn't take long for Jimmy, who is, like many of Williamson's characters, enthusiastically nerdy, to venture a guess about what has happened, but it's more difficult to convince Ellie (apparently less literate regarding the comics, websites, and occult books that Jimmy consults).

During the middle of the film, as Ricci and Eisenberg react with both joy and horror to their newfound animal aggression, Cursed sporadically resembles fun. Ricci is particularly believable as a smart girl gone wild - you practically cheer for her to complete the transformation. The film's single best moment has her prowling around her office before discovering she's actually on the hunt for blood. It's funny, creepy, and deceptively simple.

Ellie works on the Late Late Show (hosted, during the movie's hectic production, by the since-departed Craig Kilborn) and it's a testament to Williamson's previous successes that he's now able to populate his in-jokes with actual cameos (Scott Baio and Kilborn himself appear, to mildly amusing effect). A kernel of young-Hollywood satire sits deep within the film; it jumps around a few times, but it never pops. All of Cursed is like that, generating momentary excitement and little in the way of results. A concrete werewolf mythology - the basic hows and whys - never emeges, and soon the personal dilemmas of Ellie and Jimmy are sidelined for frantically ineffective monster-mashing. More disheartening: Williamson and Craven are content to allow the story to turn into a muddled whodunit worthy of a second-rate slasher picture ("Who is the original werewolf?" replaces "Who's the guy in the mask killing everyone?").

The presence of Ricci, Eisenberg, De Rossi, and Greer, pros all, suggests that at some point, this project might've been something more. The film apparently went through several rewrites, production breaks, reshoots, and re-edits, retooling processes lining up like dominos. The uncharacteristically tame result makes it difficult to suss out which version, if any, attracted this kind of talent.

And the seams show. A few suspenseful sequences jostle against slasher-style monologuing (beware tense speeches recited to the main character as she backs away with fear in her eyes); cracks at Hollywood are overtaken by badly cut fight sequences; some decent performances simply don't have the time to find motivation or detail. We're left observing the uneasy spectacle of a werewolf movie feeding on itself.

The "unrated" DVD isn't particularly gorier, but it does offer selected scene commentaries, and several making-of documentaries.


Cursed Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2005


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