After Wes Craven completed his Scream trilogy, horror fans waited several years for the director’s next movie. By 2005, the wait was over – Craven released two movies that year. One of those movies was a decent thriller, Red Eye, that enjoyed some success. As for the second release, Craven’s werewolf thriller Cursed lived up to its name. A troubled production plagued by script changes, re-shoots, and a revolving door of cast members all led to release delays. When Cursed finally saw the inside of theatres the movie barely resembled what was intended. Not surprisingly, it was a commercial and critical failure. Now over 15 years later, is Cursed ready for critical re-appraisal?
While driving home, brother and sister Ellie and Jimmy Miles swerve to avoid hitting an animal. Though they survive the accident, another driver is dragged into the woods by a large animal and both siblings are bit. Police suggest it was a mountain lion but Jimmy believes he saw a large wolf. Following the accident, as the siblings undergo startling physical changes, Jimmy slowly believes they were attacked by a werewolf. As more animal attacks pop up over the city, Ellie and Jimmy desperately search for a cure to their curse.
Cursed Neutered by Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
First and foremost, Cursed is not an entirely bad movie. Though it feels choppy and the story plods awkwardly forward, it’s never a dull movie. Besides, a filmmaker like Wes Craven was able to leave his mark on a few scenes. Both the movie’s opening car crash and a underground parking lot ‘stalk and chase scene are suspenseful and pack a few jumps. Even the climax manages a bit of fun that almost reminds you of Scream. But post-production editing to achieve a PG-13 rating hurts. While there’s plenty of great PG-13 horror movies, a werewolf flick needs some teeth. All the tampering certainly leaves Cursed neutered. In addition, hit-and-miss CGI mixed with some decent practical effects prove underwhelming. And an awkward attempt at werewolf humor later in the movie falls pretty flat.
The ‘werewolf rules’ feel pretty hard and loose here.
Just how much of Cursed’s problems can be attributed to production issues versus script and filmmaking concerns is impossible to tell. In all fairness, Craven’s filming of the more action-oriented scenes are often choppy and hard to follow. Whether writer Kevin Williamson’s (I Know What You Did Last Summer) screenplay crafted a convoluted werewolf mythology or tampering axed important bits, there’s a lot of inconsistency in the movie. The ‘werewolf rules’ feel pretty hard and loose here. Horror fans will appreciate some nice callbacks to classic werewolf movies. Moreover, Williamson’s dialogue – while not quite as sharp – still feels head and shoulders above what you’d find in most B-monster movies.
Cursed Blessed With an Excellent Cast, Undefined Characters
Despite the number of actors rumored to have come and gone before shooting completed, Cursed was still blessed with an impressive cast. From top to bottom, there’s a ‘who’s who’ of young stars backed up ‘up-and-coming’ faces. Genre veterans like Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow, Bless the Child) and Joshua Jackson (Urban Legend) capably led a cast that included Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland), Judy Greer (Halloween 2018), and a young Milo Ventimiglia (Devil’s Gate, This Is Us). Even smaller roles features familiar faces like Shannon Elizabeth (Thir13en Ghosts), Nick Offerman, and Michael Rosenbaum. And all of the performances are good. In particular, Greer stands out in supporting role as a caddy, two-faced co-worker.
Instead, like the rest of the movie, the characters suffer from what was a constantly moving target in production.
No, Cursed’s problems aren’t with the cast. Instead, like the rest of the movie, the characters suffer from what was a constantly moving target in production. Roles of and relationships between characters feel muddy. Ellie and Jimmy’s shared family tragedy feels less ambiguous and more undefined. Similarly, Williamson’s screenplay (or post-production editing) leaves much of Ellie’s personality prior to the ‘curse’ up to expository dialogue. Though Cursed’s third act signals Rosenbaum as a potential red herring, nothing that proceeds it really hints at the misdirection. And Greer’s role felt like it had more – or at least needed – more screentime.
Cursed Can’t Quite Bite onto ‘Cult Status’ Criteria
Where Cursed ultimately falls on the ‘guilty pleasure’ barometer is tricky. As mentioned above, Cursed isn’t an outright terrible movie save for one embarrassing scene. At the very least, it’s a serviceable horror movie that you can watch from start to finish. But it’s also a lukewarm effort. There’s nothing here that ever approximates the ‘so bad, it’s good’ feeling. Bad movie fans won’t find outrageous gore, wooden acting, or cringeworthy dialogue. Instead, production and post-production tampering have watered things down. What’s left is a movie that isn’t likely to spark the kind of outrage that lights up comment boards or the loyalty that drives cult status.