by Laura Kyle
While its title pretty much sums up the entire horror movie franchise of the new millennium, Wes Craven’s latest thriller, Cursed, sidesteps enough clichés to make it an unexpectedly decent movie-going experience.The storyline is laughable and seems more suited for an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Charmed, not a full-length motion picture. Yet, writer Kevin Williamson proves once again, that despite his hardly artistic obsession with teen anguish: “Dawson’s Creek,” and the Scream trilogy (also directed by Craven), he knows how to fashion a character or two. And Cursed has a handful of good characters, indeed, as well as a high caliber cast who are more than up to the task of taking them on. Plus, the whole thing is perfectly content in laughing right along with the audience.
"The humor overrides the horror... and that's a good thing."
Cursed is wearing a big fat smile for every second of its running time, and if you mistake Craven, or Marco Beltrami’s rather ostentatious score, for being serious, then you may think your suppressed giggles are the product of a joke Cursed isn’t trying to tell, but I think you’d be wrong. I gander it’s most definitely making fun of itself.
There’s one extraordinary thing about Cursed: no scary and/or dead kids, in fact no ghosts or tortured spirits either. The next time I see a little pale kid warning of impending doom…. will be this year… in The Ring Two. So, anything that diverges from such a ploy, is quite refreshing.
So, is there an original plot here? Well, no. Cursed is about werewolves, loose in LA. That’s it. Nothing more to see here folks, move along now. Except don’t move along, because the appeal of Cursed has absolutely nothing to do with its plot, or the number of times you scream or jolt for that matter (you could probably count the “scares” on one hand), but everything to do with Craven’s stylish delivery, the able actors, and the fact that Cursed intentionally lays down flat and lets the “scary movie genre” run right over it, leaving skid marks and everything.
Christina Ricci is Ellie, and if it weren’t for her orphan-status, she’d be your typical high-society girl. She works for the Craig Kilborn show (nice going there, Kilborn, I’m sure this’ll boost your ratings with the 13 to 16-yr-olds... woops! Thought this movie would come out before you threw the towel in, eh?) and is raising her high-school aged brother, Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg), after the death of their parents.
No more than 15 minutes in, Ellie and Jimmy get in a nasty car wreck (thankfully Cursed doesn’t go into I Know What You Did Last Summer territory though), one that ends up with another driver, Becky (a fully clothed Shannon Elizabeth), being ripped out of her toppled vehicle by what appears to be a werewolf. Well, that’s what Jimmy thinks, but of course no one will believe him.
I always feel so sorry for the horror-flick protagonists. No one ever takes their word; I imagine it’s difficult for them to get bank loans.
Anyhow, whatever yanked Becky out of the car and ripped her to shreds, somehow rubbed off on Ellie and Jimmy too, and they gradually begin their transition into werewolfdom. Jimmy must have watched Teen Wolf, starring a young Michael J. Fox, more than a few times, because he is immediately enthusiastic about the situation, and welcomes the increased strength and assertiveness. Though I don’t think he becomes an outspoken republican like Fox was, in “Family Ties.”
Ellie, on the other hand, like so many scary movie characters, canoes down De Nile for a while, before she finally admits to being… dun duh duh… cursed.
And before I forget, props to Milo Ventimiglia, who gives a memorable performance as Jimmy’s bully (he has a nice twist on this stereotypical character, that he gets to play with), and to Eisenberg, who pulls off the nerdy, newly cursed high-school student quite well.
Judy Greer rehashes her 13 Going on 30 “bitch” routine, playing Ellie’s co-worker, but this time she takes it to a whole new level. Joshua Jackson hops on board for his second Kevin Williamson project, and third teen thriller to date, as Ellie’s love interest, but he doesn’t have enough time to really make an impression, not even a bad one.
Other recognizable faces pop in and out, a few getting their proper dues as the Scary Movie Victim, just two red herrings short of disaster – others are kind of there for no real reason, i.e. Portia de Rossi as a fortuneteller. And a cameo by Scott Baio tops off the unnecessary minor characters, which include the aforementioned Kilborn. One wonders why you’d complicate the payroll with more famous people when they don’t add anything at all to the project at hand.
There are two types of werewolves in Cursed: the close-up werewolf, which is essentially a stuntman in a big furry suit, and the faraway, acrobatic werewolf, which is lame CGI. The filmmakers of The Day After Tomorrow, an otherwise tasty cinematic treat for the eye, also had trouble getting computer animated wolves to come off as realistic, so I’m sure Craven’s crew wasn’t scrounging their pennies or anything like that, but simply had a difficult job to do. But I miss the old-fashioned manual labor that went into classics like E.T. and Star Wars, so I actually enjoyed the reprise of the glued together, stitched up “costume.”
It becomes even more apparent that the special effects aren’t a strength of Cursed though, when all the gory scenes are left mostly to the audience’s imagination, Craven fading to black or flipping his cameras away from the implied horrors, the ones most of the teenage moviegoers probably paid for – anything for that PG-13 rating I guess.
But I don’t think Craven owes that teenage demographic anything, because it seems when I dished out my 8 bucks to the local theatre, I was also paying for a DVD-style commentary track to Cursed. Too bad I didn’t have the power to turn it off, because it consisted mostly of: “Woa, that ___ is scary!” Okay, if you think so. “Look at that!” Well, I am in a movie theatre, where everything but the humungous screen is blackened out, and the projectionist appears to have good aim, so I’m not having trouble watching what’s going on, but thanks for the head’s up. “She’ll be dead by the end of this scene!” No, it’s Christina Ricci… the star of the movie; she won’t be dead by the end of this scene, seeing as how it hasn’t even been 30 minutes yet.
I bargained with the stranger next to me, asking him if I gave him the rest of my popcorn, would that keep his mouth busy enough to get him to shut up.
Okay, I didn't really do that... but I REALLY wanted to.Nevertheless, a quality cast, and no plagiarism of The Sixth Sense or The Ring – add to that, a music track that goes all out and doesn’t even pretend to blend in with the background or play second fiddle to the story, a good deal of unusual characters, and Craven’s flair behind the camera – well, you’ve got yourself an enjoyable hour and a half, as long as you don’t mind replacing those screams with smiles.
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originally posted: 02/27/05 03:27:12