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Cursed: Unrated Version DVD Review

Cursed: Unrated Version

November 1, 2005

Director: Wes Craven,
Starring: Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, Jesse Eisenberg, Judy Greer, Scott Baio, Milo Ventimiglia, Shannon Elizabeth, Portia de Rossi, Mya, Michael Rosenbaum, ,

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DVD Review

“Everybody’s cursed. It’s called life.” – Ellie

Cursed (2005) was a highly anticipated movie for fans of the horror genre as it marked the reunion of screenwriter Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven—the creative team behind Scream (1996). This time out they tackled the werewolf movie. To say that this was a troubled production is an understatement. The production was plagued with screenplay problems so severe that at least half of the film was re-shot with a handful of actors re-cast because of scheduling conflicts. Legendary make-up artist Rick Baker left early on and the studio ultimately took the film away from Craven, inserted more CGI shots and cut it down for a PG-13 rating. Cursed has now been released on DVD in an unrated version which adds a couple of paltry minutes to the running time.

One night, when Ellie (Ricci) is driving her brother, Jimmy (Eisenberg) home they get into a car accident in a heavily wooded area on Mulholland Drive (the address for all that is creepy). As they try to help out the lady in the other vehicle they are all attacked by some kind of wolf. The next day, Jimmy wakes up naked in his yard and Ellie catches a fly right out of the air.

The film sets up pretty quickly that Jimmy is the believer, convinced that he and Ellie have been bitten by a werewolf. At work, Ellie gets a heightened sense of awareness for fresh blood while at school Jimmy stands up to the homophobic bullies. The werewolf powers seem like a blessing, at first. They give Jimmy more confidence and make Ellie more assertive. He soon realizes that their newly acquired powers are more of a curse and becomes intent on figuring out how it can be broken and who is the source.

What happened to Christina Ricci? When she made Buffalo 66 (1998) she was a voluptuous beauty but in the last couple of years she’s given into the pressure to slim down to an unhealthy looking waif-thin physique because, apparently, that’s what Hollywood thinks we want to see. It’s a shame because with her past resume, The Addams Family (1991) and Sleepy Hollow (1999), it was only natural that she stars in a Wes Craven horror film.

Williamson sticks closely to his Scream template: Jimmy is the Randy geek character of this film, Ellie’s boyfriend (Jackson) is the film’s wild card character and Ellie is the Sidney Prescott character, an assertive female protagonist. However, this film’s script is a shadow of the one for Scream—the result of numerous re-writes. The dialogue, at times, is clunky—especially the opening bit between Shannon Elizabeth’s hapless motorist and Portia de Rossi’s fortune teller.

When it comes to Wes Craven there are certain expectations. Like with Scream, Cursed jumps right into the action—no preamble—and plays around with formulaic horror conventions, straying from them just enough to keep you slightly off balance. However, it becomes pretty obvious early on who’s the source of the curse and the rest of the film is a build up to the Big Reveal and the confrontation between Jimmy, Ellie and the bad guy.

Ultimately, Cursed isn’t nearly as bad as most critics would have you believe. It is certainly a flawed effort (it isn’t really all that scary) but Craven’s slick camerawork and knack for creating atmosphere has survived relatively intact. The cast, in particular, Joshua Jackson’s enigmatic character is quite good. It is Williamson’s screenplay that is the film’s weakest element reduces Cursed to a competent movie instead of something great.

Special Features:

“Behind the Fangs: The Making of Cursed” is standard press kit material as the cast and Williamson talk about the movie as a postmodern updating of the werewolf sub-genre. Predictably, there are lots of clips from the movie and, of course, no mention of the film’s troubled past. The most telling indication that something is rotten in the state of Denmark is the absence of Craven in any of these extras (aside from on-the-set footage).

“The Cursed Effects” features Greg Nicotero providing a little insight into how the creature effects were achieved: a combination of CGI and a guy in a wolf suit.

“Creature Editing 101” features the film’s editor, Patrick Lussier talking briefly about how editing is a way to manipulate the story and how he cut different versions: PG-13, R and unrated.

“Becoming A Werewolf” is a tongue-in-cheek look at how Nicotero transformed Jesse Eisenberg into a werewolf. First, they go to the library and do research on werewolves and then go to Nicotero’s home where he proceeds to make banana bread.

Finally, there are selected scenes commentary by Nicotero and actor Derek Mears (who played the werewolf) for four creature scenes. They are spirited tracks with Nicotero dominating them as he talks about how these sequences were achieved. They joke around and offer some anecdotal bits too.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 71%

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