A moonlit ride along Mulholland Drive takes a turn for the worse when Ellie (Cristina Ricci) loses control of her vehicle after hitting a big dog and T-bones an oncoming car. The real damage occurs once the vehicles have come to rest: while Ellie and brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) try to help the driver of the other car, something attacks them. The siblings survive, but they soon begin to experience changes and not the good my-existence-has-turned-into-a-living-hell puberty kind.
Written and directed by Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven respectively, the duo that reinvigorated the horror genre with the 'Scream' trilogy, 'Cursed' would, at first glance seem to have a lot going for it. Unfortunately the title quickly came to describe the project: numerous reshoots, bickering on the set, firings, and pushed back release dates lead many to believe that the final project might not see the light of day (or more appropriately the dark of the movie theater). I was instantly leery when the studio abruptly cancelled the press screening. It’s too bad they didn’t cancel the release entirely.
The opening sequence – which features two young women (Shannon Elizabeth and Mya) seeking advice from circus psychic (Portia De Rossi) about boyfriend troubles – is a harbinger of things to come. The scene is intended to set a dark tone for the movie, but the resultant exchange surely ranks among the worst examples of collectively atrocious acting ever committed to celluloid. Worse yet, it isn’t even intentional tongue-in-cheek style bad acting– these women were clearly trying to emote.
Ricci, the only actor in the project with any real pedigree, makes a valiant effort to rise above the limits of the script, and her transformation from mousy to mighty is good for the occasional laugh. Eisenberg is amusing as the dorky younger brother who is discovers that being cursed can also have a cool side. The remaining cast members include a veritable who’s who of the WB (or so I’ve been told – we don’t get the WB here), including Dawsons Creek alumni Joshua Jackson, who is tepid as Ellie’s distant mysterious boyfriend with a secret (and you’ll never guess what it is – NOT!). But there’s more to this movie than just a bad script.
One of the main tenets of a horror film is that even if it is funny (a la the masterpiece of tongue in cheek and terror 'An American Werewolf in London') is that it must be scary. This may not entirely be the fault of Craven and Williamson, as there was a last minute cut (okay, so it was a couple days before) in which all the gore was removed to secure a PG-13 rating. At least that will leave them with something for the Director’s Cut… The special effects also proved to be hit and miss:: while the animatronic werewolf was well done (thanks to effects wizard Rick Baker, the man responsible for AAWIL), the CGI effects were choppy, stretched out and blurry. Finally, there is the matter of the plot.
About five minutes into the film I noticed that the unfolding story seemed familiar in fact a little too familiar. I’m not talking about the-boy-gets-bit-and-discovers-he’s-a werewolf-theme, but the story that develops around it. I soon realized that Williamson had basically plagiarized an episode of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (yes, I once again proudly proclaim by Buffy geek status – believe me, I didn’t want it to happen, but that’s another story…) In the episode one member of the group discovers that he’s a werewolf after waking up naked in the bushes, we learn that one of the meanest jocks at the school has a shameful secret, etc. It was clever and fit well into 45 minutes. A pale imitation that’s twice as long? Not so good.
'Cursed' is a proof that even gifted people can create crap. The movie’s occasional laugh inducing lines are outweighed by too flat dialogue, a wandering script, bad acting and total lack of heart thumping moments. Putting this dog out of it’s misery would have been the humane thing to do.