Wes Craven’s Cursed is, to put it simply, somewhat cursed itself. It’s a film that never took off despite a quality cast (Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, a pre-Ron Swanson Nick Offerman, Scott Baio in a guest role, Portia de Rossi, Joshua Jackson) and an intriguing premise – seeing Craven take on werewolf lore alone is enough to get a horror fan’s mouth watering, but unfortunately a good film it was not meant to be. Cursed got both a regular cut and an unrated director’s cut, but neither of them are the return to form that Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson hoped the film would be; it doesn’t hit the meta highs of the Scream franchise, nor does it effectively use its STD theme.
The formula, however, seems like a winner. Cursed follows Ricci’s character Ellie and her brother Jimmy (Eisenberg) after a car wreck leaves them scratched by a mysterious beast that ripped apart another victim. Both of them refuse to believe that their afflictions – like increased strength, hunger for meat, and an evolved sense of smell – are related to their beastly encounter until Jimmy begins to do research on the werewolf curse and realizes that all of those things are probably related.
Craven’s direction is manageable enough in the film, and Cursed, for the most part, maintains a pretty healthy pace throughout. Williamson’s script employs quite a few unannounced jump scares at the start of the film, especially a relatively calm moment where a werewolf smashes through a car window to drag its victim away. These are the best scenes of the film, when Craven opts for showing the hairy arm or maw of the werewolf instead of the full body.
When Cursed does attempt to explicitly depict the werewolf, it falters with the CGI approach. To be frank, the CGI monster is pretty terrible, standard work that you’d most likely find in a SyFy Saturday night feature. The practical effects are minimal here, so common werewolf occurrences like transformation scenes rely on CGI work; it becomes a huge problem late in the film, during chase sequences that make the werewolf look like an agile monkey hopping over cars in a parking garage.
Unfortunately, Cursed also fails to produce an effective love story between Ellie and Jake (Joshua Jackson); they’re both successful young entrepreneurs with their jobs coming first and foremost, but Williamson’s script makes them sound like immature teenagers thinking they’ve fallen in love with “the one.” Williamson’s writing, especially with I Know What You Did Last Summer, could often manage the tween/teen sensibilities because the characters were meant to be that age; in Cursed, it’s simply painful to see successful mid-twenties adults acting much younger than their intended age.
That’s the thing about Cursed‘s overarching plot, though – Williamson’s script relies heavily on petty jealousy for its thematic drive, and it comes up short in its final moments because there’s really little substance to it all. Ellie is targeted simply because of her association with Jake, and since that relationship is lacking vital emotional resonance anyway, Cursed loses the audience in its final act.
It’s no wonder that Cursed was doomed to diminishing returns. It’s a rushed movie, and it’s certainly not Craven’s or Williamson’s best work. While seeing Craven tackle a werewolf film head on is interesting, the film’s main problem lies with its creature effects and a less-than-stellar script. And what makes it so disappointing is that the scaffolding for a much better werewolf movie is present, just not used efficiently. Kevin found some saving grace in Cursed, but I’d much rather pretend it’s not a part of Craven’s ouvre.