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Cursed
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2005

Format: Movie
By:   Wes Craven (director) and Kevin Williamson (writer)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   February 25, 2005
Review Date:   February 28, 2005
Audience Rating:   Rated PG-13
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

"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 and Assault 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.

Gary Mitchel tried to think of a good reference to the hair of the dog that bit him, but he was too busy ordering a Salty Dog.

 
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