Wes Craven's Cursed Review
It seems a little pretentious, almost too easy for the team that introduced a whole generation to a horror sub-genre, to continue to tread very familiar ground with their post-mod posturing and teen-angst, 18-30 styled preaching. It isn’t like self-reference and pop-culture has passed them by before as what was perfected in Scream, was a craft honed by director Wes Craven in A New Nightmare, and writer Kevin Williamson in his television series Dawson’s Creek. More to the point, it’s all too mundanely workmanlike for them to continue to take stabs at genre films because while both Craven and Williamson were able to make it work a second time quite handsomely – together on Scream 2, and Williamson alone on Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty – things got decidedly average with Scream 3 and I Know What You Did Last Summer. So here they are again, with their take on the werewolf movie but there’s a distinct feeling of being there, done that, proving the breed of lycanthrope is no different, it’s just changed cities. Yet, when consideration is given to the film’s troubled production with re-edits and re-writes being assembled on-demand, it’s rather commendable that Craven has still been able to produce a reasonably enjoyable horror movie. It’s just the Craven/Williamson inventiveness has become a cliché in itself and when the end credits roll they’ve wet your appetite but left the main course in the kitchen.
Cursed doesn’t enter a world over-saturated with werewolf pictures which is perhaps why it is far more easy to pick holes in it, than say Scream which was probably the one-millionth slasher film to come out of American cinema. Fans of the genre will be quick to compare it to other movies and they’ll unfortunately find it’s more An American Werewolf In Paris than London. But, Paris was an enjoyable sequel nevertheless and in much the same way, Cursed has its moments of lycanthropic madness, but where as the king of the genre, John Landis’ An American Werewolf In London has such staying power, Cursed is a movie that vacates your consciousness just as quick as it went in. Indeed, Craven and Williamson’s film has such a cold feeling of ostentation, as if they just want to play with the ideals of the werewolf myth and the genre simply because they can, is an easy deterrent and a difficult pill to swallow, but even the most casual fan will see through the filmmaker’s pretentiousness knowing that such a right can only be deserved recently if your name is John Fawcett or Neil Marshall.
In Cursed, brother and sister, Jimmy and Ellie (Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci) are returning home when they hit something in the road (sound familiar?). Consequently swerving, they crash into another car which falls over the hillside, so they wander into the darkness to help the driver. However, as Jesse is helping the girl out of the car, something smashes through the windscreen and drags her away, with Jesse and Ellie being dragged along behind. Of course, they both get scratched by this mysterious beast and start having strange cravings and begin to howl at the moon. As they start to believe they may actually be turning into werewolves, they wonder if there is any hope that they may return to normal life. But through some overt exposition, we’re told if they kill the one that started the curse, then they will be free of it, the only problem is finding that person before it’s too late.
The film is a tidy package of special-effects and pretty actors, set against the backdrop of colourful Los Angeles. It’s most redeeming feature is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously which is the main draw of the film, and there’s a great moment involving a certain werewolf making a retort to Ricci’s character’s proclamation that it has a bony ass, which will have at least a few people throwing up with laughter. Certainly Craven throws in enough decent laughs, and his trademark style is written all over a quality dream sequence, and the initial run-in with the werewolf, but unfortunately much of the film is haphazard and rather uninspired. The homosexual sub-plot involving Jesse and the whole idea of a teenager coming to terms with being a werewolf was done much better, and much funnier in Teen Wolf, while the film lacks enough good scares, pacing itself more like snappy comedy than a suspenseful horror. The script rewrites probably didn’t help the character development leaving scenes sapped of tension because we simply don’t care, while Portia De Rossi’s character Zela the fortune teller, is simply a fleeting piece of heavy-handed exposition who pops up when the filmmakers can’t be bothered to devise any other way of propelling the narrative.
But yet it isn’t all bad, as Cursed doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. The actors deliver their performances with fangs firmly lodged in cheeks – Christina Ricci is a fine scream-queen, whilst Jesse Eisenberg is an amusing actor who has enough ‘quirk’ to provide his character with more than one dimension. It’s criminal really that Craven and Williamson should turn in such uninteresting work given their portfolios which is what probably taints the movie more than the film itself, since certain expectations are not met, but while the film has its obvious flaws, it’s still entertaining. Perhaps the most potent argument is that the werewolf film is a tough genre to crack, in that you either make a poor film or an average one. Of course, every so often there’s the odd something special with the likes of Marshall’s Dog Soldiers and Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps, but maybe when Craven and Williamson’s heads exit their own arses, they’ll realise this is one genre they can’t chew on.
The region 2 DVD presents the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and with anamorphic enhancement. The film might have its flaws but the image certainly doesn’t as it looks superb. The darkly lit scenes look fantastic with solid blacks and good contrast, the level of detail showing each hair on actor Jesse Eisenberg’s head, whilst the glowing neon lights of the city are sharp and clear. The image has been rendered wonderfully for the DVD with no noticeable edge-enhancement, and the print is in immaculate condition.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is equally impressive displaying a deep, immersive sound that is helped by excellent use of the sub-woofer and great use of the surround speakers. Dialogue is nicely separated across the channels, and the action sequences bring the whole soundstage to life.
It should be noted that the region 2 DVD presents the original version of the film that appeared in theatres, and not the R-rated version that can be accessed on the region 1 DVD. Information about the elements lost in this release can be found in D.J Nock’s region 1 review, which essentially amount to more gore and blood, cut after the studio again demanded re-edits, since they wanted to reach a PG-13 audience. It is a shame these bits and pieces were lost because while they don’t make it a better movie, they do improve each scene with their more graphic nature. However, neither release contain the footage that was lost after the initial cuts imposed by the studio, so the original vision of the film is still yet to be seen. Perhaps this unseen version was a better movie, but it seems an easy excuse for the filmmakers to have, and its unlikely there’s anything ‘special’ to see.
Unfortunately, this region 2 release also loses out on the commentary, but it isn’t a great loss, as this and the other ‘special features’ which amount to a direct port from the region 1, are pure fluff material that offer very little incite into the film’s troubled production. First up is Behind The Fangs: The Making Of Cursed, which is an annoying pat on the back/head up the arse rendition of pre-practiced ‘look at this great thing we did’, 8 minute collection of interviews with all the principle cast and crew. It stinks of that feeling: please just get some new material. The Cursed Effects is a 6 minute look at how the filmmakers went about the special-effects which is quite interesting if a little too short. Creature Editing 101 is the best feature on the disk because it shows the R-rated footage that was cut from the film, but again it is very short and doesn’t mention any other studio imposed cuts other than the aim to make a PG-13 movie. The final featurette is Becoming A Werewolf which lasts for 8 minutes and is presented by actor Jesse Eisenberg. This is pretty dull viewing as it shows Eisenberg going through the process of turning into a werewolf but Eisenberg’s sense of humour is rather silly and not at all funny. This featurette should be noted for having Wes Craven doing a little acting.
The DVD also features trailers for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Garden State.
Cursed should have been a lot better and while it isn’t necessarily a bad film, it’s uninspired and rather bland. Its notions of homage to other films within the genre is less the wry humour that worked so well in Scream to revitalise the conventions of the slasher film, more clichéd over-indulgence that only copies rather than re-energisers elements of other, much better werewolf movies. The region 1 gorier version of the film is the one to watch, but perhaps this less graphic version is the one that will sell more copies as children will be the only ones drawing any mileage from the movie. But having said that, I’d seen An American Werewolf In London by the time I was seven years old, so even kids will probably see through Cursed’s thin lining. The film is presented on this region 2 DVD superbly well in the audio and image department, but it’s a shame the added features don’t offer anything worthwhile.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:59:23