"Casper? Is that you?"

© 2005, Dimension Films
All Rights Reserved

Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg, "Roger Dodger") are siblings living humdrum lives in idyllic Los Angeles. One night while driving home, the two are bitten by a werewolf. Now possessed with a taste for blood, a heightened sexual allure, and marked with pentagrams on their palms, the pair struggle to understand their transformations, hoping to find the werewolf that started it all in an effort to save their own lives.

Filmed two years ago, "Cursed" (IMDb listing) heralded the reteaming of screenwriter Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven, the minds behind the inexplicable success of the "Scream" trilogy. While I personally found "Scream" to be the first shot fired in the war of awful horror films, it was a hit, and the two filmmakers were put on a pedestal for their efforts. However, their new werewolf film, "Cursed," didn't come out quite the way Dimension Films wanted it to, so the production was ordered back with a reconstructed script, and most of the movie was reshot. To make matters worse, in January, the film was recut again to tone down the material from an R rating to a mall-friendly PG-13. Did "Cursed" ever have a chance for success?

Watching the finished product is like opening a jigsaw puzzle box and finding only one piece to work with. "Cursed" is a thorough mess from opening to closing, taking Craven on a career-ending ride, and reminding the viewer what a hack Williamson truly is. The goal was to recapture that "Scream" feeling by packing on the Hollywood in-jokes, which are all considerably dated (Ellie works for the now canceled Craig Kilborn show, Lance Bass gets a screaming response at a club opening), and cast heavily with a bunch of C-level stars with WB ties (Michael Rosenbaum, Portia de Rossi, Joshua Jackson, Shannon Elizabeth, Mya, Milo Ventimiglia). This lack of casting imagination continues into the performances, with Christina Ricci looking typically bewildered and wearing a bad wig, Jesse Eisenberg doing his best Woody Allen impression, and Judy Greer (as a nasty agent - is there any other kind?) giving more reasons why she shouldn't be let near a script. The entire cast comes and goes as it pleases throughout the picture; a clear remnant of the film's fractured production history. Craven and Williamson attempt to cover the seams by heaping on the glue of pop culture references and unfunny jokes. They end up just repeating themselves to make a quick buck.

And don't ask me why Scott Baio is paraded around the film. Neither a joke appearance nor an integral part of the story, Baio is only here because ... well, there's no reason why he's here. Another clue to the reshoots?

As a horror film, "Cursed" doesn't have much to do. With most of the story cleaved away, all the film really becomes is a series of werewolf-stalks-prey moments, complete with cheap scares and some rather awful CG monsters. With the gore and the intensity a victim of an editorial Boston Tea Party, the horror elements of the film have nothing to work with. Craven seem to understand that his picture is a genre dud because he starts to guide the material away from scares to laughs in the last reel. For heaven's sake, there's a shot featuring a werewolf giving Ellie the finger! "Cursed" attempts a "Scream" merge of comedy and horror, and that cookie crumbles on both ends.

The patchwork nature of the story, coupled with Craven's get-me-outta-here directorial mood, keeps "Cursed" grounded from the opening credits, and the picture just gets worse from there. The werewolf mythology deserves a more considerate take than this ugly dud, and horror audiences should come to realize that Hollywood hates them if this is the best effort they can provide after making the same movie twice.

Filmfodder Grade: F

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