"Hey, enough with the biting!" — Jimmy
There are two theatres in my city where I enjoy watching movies.
At one of them I saw Boogeyman
on Precinct 13. In the other one, I watched Son
of the Mask and Alone
in the Dark. I was starting to suspect that one of
the theatres just might be — well, Cursed.
So when I found out that the new werewolf movie from Wes Craven
and Kevin Williamson was going to be playing at said cineplex,
I was a bit concerned. I was also worried. While I enjoyed the
first Scream, parts two and three (all delivered by these
two guys) were, shall we say, less than spectacular. So I went
into this flick with some serious trepidation.
I am slightly pleased to report that while Cursed is
not a great movie, it's not that bad either. Which means my
theatre isn't under the sway of evil magics; they just have
a bad booking agent.
Now, for the movie. Christina (always Wednesday Addams to me)
Ricci is Ellie, talent agent for "The Late Late Show
with Craig Killborne." As she swims through a sea of
B-list celebrities and promoters, her brother Jimmy is just
trying to survive life as a high school nerd. Jimmy depends
on his sister for everything, as their parents died in some
mysterious circumstances some time before the film starts. As
the siblings are driving down Mulholland they get in a car crash,
and the other vehicle careens into the woods. While they are
trying to help the poor, doomed driver, she's snatched out of
the car by a werewolf. In the ensuing struggle, both Ellie and
Jimmy are scratched by the beast, and thus Cursed.
Not wanting to spend three nights a month all hairy and rampaging,
Jimmy looks for a cure. Ellie refuses to believe what's happening.
Especially since her romance with Jake (Joshua "Dawson's
Creek" Jackson) is on the rocks. It's the eve of his
new club's grand opening and he's stressed. Ellie is also fighting
off one particularly annoying publicist, Joanie (Judy The
Village Greer), who represents Scott Baio (playing
himself). (Ellie's working for Killborne gives the script plenty
of reasons for celebrity cameos.)
Now, there are two main types of werewolf movies. In the first,
some poor sap is bitten and spends the first part of the movie
enjoying the upsides of being a lycanthrope, then the rest of
the movie tying to escape the curse and the carnage (see American
Werewolf in London). In the other, the cast tries to figure
out who the werewolf is, while the beast turns them into doggie-chow
one by one (see "The Howling"). By having two siblings
bitten, Cursed gets to be both types at the same time.
Ellie gets the entire "Oh God, what's happening to me"
bit, and Jimmy gets to revel in his newfound abilities and smack
around his former bullies.
Speaking of the bullies, one of the best characters in the
film is the head bully, Bo (Milo "Gilmore Girls"
Ventimiglia). While Milo has this "I'm Orlando Bloom's
younger brother" look thing going on, he turns in a fun
performance, especially in the second half of the film. I won't
spoil his character's turning point, but it's one of the funniest
in the movie. The other notable side character is Ellie's assistant
Kyle, played by Smallville's own Lex Luthor, Michael
Rosenbaum. He does a decent job, and he has hair!
Now there is only one way to undo the curse, which most werewolf
fans will know. You have to kill the bad dog that bit you. So
the second half of the movie is the "who's the original
wolf " hunt, with the obligatory red herrings, followed
by a massacre of extras by the shaggy beast and a final confrontation.
Cursed has a lot of cool little bits. There's a shot
of L.A. from the hills, where the streets make a pentagram across
the whole city. Jimmy's wrestling match with his bullies is
fun. In his room, as he researches werewolves, amongst the strewn-about
books are issues of Marvel's Werewolf by Night and the
Werewolf RPG from White Wolf games. Jake's club is a
Hollywood centric place called Tinsel with themed rooms, and
a major set piece is the horror room with a full-size Lon Chaney
Jr. in full wolf mode and a replica of the silver-headed cane
that killed his naughty dog (along with a little guy
called Freddy Kruger sneaking around in the back). We also see
what happens when a dog bites a werewolf, and it's fun.
The werewolf itself is a beautiful beast, but that is a given
seeing that Rick Baker
designed it. It's done as a hybrid of CGI and puppet/man in
suit effects. The main transformation at the end, all CG, is
a faster version of the change showcased in American Werewolf
in London. (If I have to point out that Baker was the makeup
genius behind that film, too, you are not a horror fan). While
it does look cool, it's still pretty obvious CG work, and after
the cool new transformation in Van
Helsing I was hoping for a new take on the change from
man to mutt. (Just how many canine references can I make in
this review? As many as my editor will allow).
On the other hand, there are really not a lot of things we
haven't seen before. Most of the plot twists you can see coming,
the scares are few, the "hidden" werewolf might as
well be wearing a neon sign , and you can see where the film
was cut to ribbons to get its PG-13 rating.
Cursed is a decent little werewolf flick. It's not great,
but it doesn't suck. I think the inevitable director's cut DVD
will make it a better (and gorier) film, but it's still won't
rank up there with such great wolf flicks as Dog
Solders and American Werewolf in London. In
Cursed, this pooch was taught a few new tricks, but
it's still the same old dog.