Cursed

Could be worse.
★★
☆☆☆
Released: 
2005
Director: 
Wes Craven
Starring: 
Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Joshua Jackson, Judy Greer, Mya
The Setup: 
Brother and sister are bitten by werewolves, etc.
Discussion: 

Having heard so much badness about this movie, I didn’t bother to see it, and was only mildly interested to see it in its “uncut” form on video. You know the deal with this, right? It needed a bunch of reshoots, but by that time more than a few members of the cast were unavailable [or just so not hot anymore, e.g.: Skeet Ulrich], so they had to eliminate whole characters and reshoot certain scenes with new actors. Then they decided to trim this down to a PG-13, so they eliminated all of the gore, and it was tossed to the theaters.

I was at the flea market and saw a bunch of bootleg DVDs for $0.50, and this was one of them [as was Boogeyman and Hide and Seek, other movies that $0.50 sounds about right for]. We can debate whether I should have bought the bootleg or immediately reported its sellers to the Federal Agency of DVD Piracy or whatever, but I did buy them—and none of them worked. But by the time I found they didn’t work I found I was fuckin’ PSYCHED to see CURSED!

We open at this amusement park where Mya and who I believe is Shannon Elizabeth [I so cannot follow all the minor celebrities here], and they meet a fortuneteller who tells them that her advice is that they leave this place, don’t look back, and forget they ever saw her face. Then dark lady played black magic til the clock struck on the twelve. She told them more about them than they knew themselves. So they leave, and we’re soon introduced to brother and sister Jimmy and Allie, played by Jessie Eisenberg and Christina Ricci. Jimmy is called a fag by Bo, the boyfriend of this girl he likes, and Allie goes to her boyfriend Jake’s soon-to-open nightclub, which is inexplicably decorated like a really lame amusement park haunted house [with prominently featured Wolf Man figure], complete with hall of mirrors. Allie offers her womanhood to Jake, but he barely pays attention and tells her he needs more space. Brief, fraction-of-a-second glimpses of Ricci’s acting ability break through the dumb script and hacksaw editing, like in reaction shots like this, but for the most part you just sitting there thinking about how she really isn’t cut out for straight-ahead, mass-appeal, “hot” 20-something roles.

So on their way back from their night out they hit an animal, then another car in the Hollywood hills. The other car goes off the road, and after an interminable suspense scene, Shannon [who was in the other car] gets pulled out by the werewolf. Now, it’s not every movie in which your main characters form a human chain and are dragged through a car and several yards across the forest floor. Shannon gets eaten, and Jimmy gets bitten, as does Allie, which is quite inexplicable, as she seemed to be about 15 feet from the beast at all times. Then we get a piece of the gore that was cut from the theatrical version: Shannon’s torso is thrown at them, and we see her body, ripped in half at the waist, crawl a few feet before she finally dies. Have you noticed that when things like this happen in modern horror movies lately, that the blood is very dark, often closer to black but certainly not looking like red? The abdominal cavity of Shannon’s body, as we see it, is mostly black and looks fairly dry inside. It kind of looks like the chewed end of a cigar. It’s funny how even when we’re making a gesture toward extreme gore, there have to be all these ways of making it more palatable and moving it several steps away from anatomical reality.

Jimmy doesn’t even CONSIDER any other possibility than that this is a werewolf, and with a few taps at his computer has all the information he needs! Meanwhile Allie has a dream in which Jake comes over and she bites a giant hole in his neck. This hole reveals the inside of his neck to be hollow, and then blood shoots out of it as though his whole neck were a giant fire hose. It’s hard to know if this gore is so stylized, so almost cartoon-like, because this is a dream, or if this is really their idea of extreme gore. The rest of the gore in the unrated version is not quite as cartoony as this particular scene.

The next day Jimmy and Allie are feelin’ HOT, and she lets her hair down and looks all vampy, but because we didn’t see much of her before this we wouldn’t really know for sure. She goes too work and is the victim or a snarking by Joanie, the uber-bitch woman who used to go out with Jake and still bears traces of bitterness, to say the least. That night Mya is at a Hollywood party lubing all over Jake [do women in L.A. REALLY throw themselves at men like that? Even shitty nightclub owners?] and gets stalked and eaten by the werewolf in a parking garage.

Meanwhile Jimmy consults all the leading texts for werewolf information, including “WolfSounds” comic book. The next day both he and Allie are a little shaggier and, we are supposed to believe, a lot “sexier,” including my favorite detail: Jimmy’s perm has gone away overnight! I enjoyed imagining Jimmy getting up really early in the morning and sitting for hours with powerful straightening solution in his hair. Anyway, when he goes to school he is abused for a third time [there was one in here I didn’t tell you about] by Bo, who again accuses him of being gay, to which Jimmy’s stock response is that it is BO is gay. After a while, Jimmy seems like the verbally abusive one, and when you think about it, the response that someone who is calling you gay is actually gay themselves still implies that being gay is among the worst fates that can be visited upon an individual. There’s this whole wrestling-with-newfound-strength thing I can’t even be bothered to go into.

After a bunch more junk Bo stops by to confess to Jimmy that he actually IS gay. I had read elsewhere that this is the exact same scene as happened in Buffy Season Two, but I didn’t realize it was going to be the EXACT SAME SCENE. It would seem that while Bo has not come out to anyone and keeps his gayness as a secret within himself, he is completely comfortable with his sexuality, and completely comfortable talking to Jimmy about it. It’s borderline offensive in its stupidity and utter lack of understanding of human psychology, but it is kind of made up for by having Bo become one of the main minor characters who becomes Jimmy’s buddy for the rest of the movie. Jimmy also discovers that his dog Zipper is now a were-retriever.

SPOILERS > > >
So let’s get on with it. Turns out one of the bad werewolves is Joanie, the uber-bitch from earlier. She became infected by getting fucked by Jake, and now she is—for some reason—out to “eliminate the competition,” i.e. any other woman Jake might want to sleep with. Why Jake did not turn any of the many other women we are told he slept with into werewolves is left to conjecture. Now, you ask yourself: is this scenario very kind to women? That at least this one woman is such a vacuous shell who exists only for the love of one man—a nightclub owner, I remind you—and is out to kill all of the other women he’s interested in? Then, a few minutes later, when she escapes, Allie draws her back by shouting out insults, including that she has a “bony ass and bad skin,” which causes Joanie-as-werewolf to expose herself to gunfire in order to defend herself against these outrageous charges. By giving Allie the finger. You can also hear slight, under-your-breath comments from the werewolf if you listen carefully. Between the portrait of women throwing themselves at Jake at the earlier party and bitchy competitiveness against each other, to Joanie’s wishing to kill other women that stand between her and her schlub, this film is quite insulting to women. Aside from Allie, the only character unwilling to fall for Jake’s shit, almost all of the women in the movie are massively superficial and man-obsessed.

Oh, by the way, when Joanie becomes a werewolf, she loses her breasts and clearly becomes a man, with a recognizably male chest. I’ll leave it to someone else to puzzle over what this all means, though I suspect it’s just more in the line already established in the movie, that women cannot truly have power.

But you know Kevin Williamson, for whom one villain is simply not enough. Turns out Jake is the alpha werewolf [oh my God! I SO cannot believe it!], and he combines rehashes of the end of Scream [two villains] and The Faculty, with the concept of killing the main one and thus curing all the others. Yep, all they have to do is kill Jake and then they’ll both be cured, conveniently enough. Personally, I like sticking in the biological model for werewolfism [if it’s a spiritual curse that can just be lifted, why do you need to be bitten?], and would have been more interested to see how they cope through life with being a werewolf… but this is a teen movie. They kill Jake and quite thoroughly separate his head from his body with a shovel [more very dark blood again], and that’s pretty much the end. Oh, by the way, in here we also find that becoming a werewolf also allows you to stick to the ceiling. In tennis shoes.

One other thing that is unexpected and a little disappointing is that neither Jimmy nor Allie ever really turn into werewolves. I thought for sure we would end with a little werewolf-on-werewolf violence, but they just show little flashes of werewolf tendencies, not ever fully transforming.
< < < SPOILERS END

Ultimately, I didn’t think it was that bad. I mean, it certainly wasn’t great, but I don’t see how this is any worse then the remake of Pulse or Boogeyman or Freddy vs. Jason. If this hadn’t gotten such bad pre-release publicity, this would have just come out, made it’s 20 million the first weekend and disappeared without any fanfare, and without anyone thinking any more of it. After all I’d heard, I was expecting much worse… which could be the key to enjoying it.

But, like almost everything else, it gets quite wearisome by the end. And I just don’t respond to the work of Kevin Williamson. For the first 20 minutes I thought this was the funniest shit I had ever seen, with its stable of despicably superficial characters and how you can see all its set-ups from about 40 miles away, but it soon went from “okay, let’s move this along” to outright fast-forwarding. I also just don’t care about the whole L.A. celebrity world or the minor celebrities / in-jokes in the casting and cameos. And surely there’s some joke in having Scott Baio as a cameo and having a character named Joanie, but, yeah, whatever.

Should you watch it: 

If you’ve seen any of the recent spate of crap horror films you’ve seen worse. That’s still no reason to see it, but if you want to or are forced to, I think you’ll live.