Wes Craven’s “Cursed” is like the trashiest tabloid on the newsstand oozed into a half-baked werewolf movie in a wretched attempt to modernize the age-old tale into a hip horror/comedy gone horribly awry. You know you’re in trouble when a character declares, without the slightest hint of irony, that “there’s no such thing as safe sex with a werewolf!”
The film follows a recently orphaned sister and brother (Christina Ricci, “Monster” and Jesse Eisenberg, “The Village”) whose car is attacked by a mysterious beast along a winding Hollywood road. The creature, of course, turns out to be a werewolf, and the siblings discover that not only are they cursed with “the mark of the beast,” but it also appears to be stalking them.
Originally slated for release more than a year ago, the film underwent a massive reshoot, including recasting several roles and numerous rewrites. It’s hard to imagine that the original was worse than this new version, which takes all the familiar avenues of the standard werewolf flick — characters developing silly, canine habits and a money shot of the villain transforming into a lupine caricature — before launching into an overblown double-climax that literally fills a third of its running time. It requires that viewers sit through not one but two obligatory scenes in which two different villains explain their motivations at mind-numbing length.
“Cursed” reteams Craven with screenwriter Kevin Williamson, the team behind the first two megahit “Scream” movies. Their collaboration on this film was intended to yield a contemporary spin on tired werewolf tales, but instead they deliver a dementedly nuanced and formulaic recycling of the same, clichéd material. Williamson, whose work is usually characterized by its witty dialogue and edgy plot twists, offers up a screenplay here that is astonishingly banal. He replaces the frisky fun and frenetic energy of his previous work with outdated pop culture gags and a subplot in which the homophobic captain of the wrestling team (gasp!) turns out to be gay in several hopelessly contrived scenes that are shamelessly played for laughs.
The subpar direction of Craven, the horror maven behind such cult classics as “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Last House on the Left,” is equally lacking, in comparison to his previous efforts. Though he easily establishes his signature atmosphere, Craven relies on cheap scare tactics and inane in-jokes to drive the story and shows surprisingly little skill in downplaying the film’s laughably slipshod creature effects. The werewolves, which are the creation of Rick Baker Studios, look remarkably like stuntmen wearing giant werewolf suits. And as if it weren’t gutless enough, the last minute decision by infamous studio head Harvey Weinstein to cut the film from its original R rating to the teenage-friendly PG-13 turns each attack into a boring chase sequence that ends with a fade to black and loud, muffled screams.
Meanwhile, the considerably large cast, including Joshua Jackson (TV’s “Dawson’s Creek”), R&B singer Mya and Scott Baio (yes, Scott “Charles in Charge” Baio) coasts through the film, doing what little they can with the material. The weak story is the most disappointing aspect of “Cursed.” It lacks the genre-bending ingenuity and self-aware characters who elevated “Scream” above mediocrity. Without them, the substandard “Cursed” makes for yet another hollow addition to the recent over saturation of horror films.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars