"Cursed" just happens to be the latest assembly line PG-13 horror film, one that packages itself to make more money by capturing the high school crowd when they sacrifice the gory goods only an R-rated picture could deliver. Not to say horror movies must be R-rated to be good -- "The Ring" has become an instant classic -- but this is Wes Craven we're talking about, they guy who directed a little known horror film called "Scream."
But before I get ahead of myself, this is not a film that could have been saved by more blood.
A slimmed-down Christina Ricci plays a troubled television producer (Elli) who lost her parents to unexplained reasons. She lives with her dorky little brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) who conveniently reads werewolf comic books and uses the Internet to learn everything there is to know about the fabled creatures.
It may be Los Angeles, but it doesn't take long before said wolf begins terrorizing the town and infects Elli and Jimmy with its bite. Elli acquires a taste for blood and Jimmy craves raw meat. Sadly, it will take both of them (especially Elli) too long to figure out what is happening to them.
An ominous psychic (Portia de Rossi) warns the townspeople of the mysterious wolf, spitting out cautious phrases as "Beware of the moon. It feeds in the moonlight." Most of the victims don't pay any attention -- maybe because she works at carnivals and appears on late-night talk shows hurting her credibility -- and as a result they become wolf fodder.
Because Jimmy is a dork he will have to accomplish two things in this movie: be the one to learn how to kill the werewolf in order to stop the curse, and steal the hot babe whom for some inexplicable reason is dating the school's biggest jerk and captain of the wrestling team. Look for an out of place scene where Jimmy uses his wolf-like abilities to beat half the wrestling team in front of the girl he desires.
Surely a premise with at least some promise, "Curse" is stuck in it's D-grade screenplay only a fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" might respect. It's a story about transforming teens who must kill the source to save themselves and possibly mankind, all the while attending high school and keeping a 3.5 grade point average.
Most of the false scares involve the sudden appearance of Elli's boyfriend Jake (Joshua Jackson), a curious character who conveniently builds werewolf sets for flashy Los Angeles nightclubs. I counted at least four times when Jake jumped out at Elli; once outside her car, another from inside the house, maybe onetime from inside the fire place…not quite sure, but that sudden crashing of symbols provided by the soundtrack does its best to get a reaction.
No such luck for this tame production.
There is an R-rated version, and Arrow saw it up in Canada, reporting on the violence: "We get a body chomped in half, a nasty neck bite, various wolf chompings/slashes and a neat severed head. I wonder what the US Pg-13 Cut will keep in?"
Instead we get the usual Ritalin-dependent engine that has to disguise it's mediocre CGI rendition of the werewolf and only show a few frames of it.
In addition we get short appearances and unflattering cameos by Shannon Elizabeth, Mya, Craig Kilborn, Scott Baio and N'SYNC's Lance Bass, to populate the screen whenever Elli and Jimmy aren't looking nervous while running away from a badly created werewolf and working out high school and career-level relationship problems.
No excuses for Kevin Williamson, the brain behind Wes Craven's "Scream" and sole writer of this turkey, providing wonderful lines for his characters such as this one by Elli: "Everybody’s cursed, Jimmy...It's called life." Perhaps such a curse is placed upon generally good writers such as Williamson who temporarily left the movie industry for "Dawson's Creek," television melodrama at its brilliance.
To say the film breaks apart at the end would suggest the parts leading up to it consisted of something workable. Not so, but "Cursed" still manages to best itself with the ridiculously implausible and unfunny revelation about the identity of the werewolf and its motive for killing attractive women.
Moviegoers looking for a humorous take on the werewolf-in-suburbia concept that actually has a little humor might want to check out "Ginger Snaps" and let this curse go straight to the video stores.