Wes Craven has become a trademark name, & he lends that trademark to some of the worst horror films on DVD as "Wes Craven Presents."
But those of us who were seriously enamored of Freddy Krueger back when Wes was one hellion of a director, we keep wanting him to be, in his own films at least, some kind of horror movie genius. We doubtless expect too much, so are usually disappointed. It has been a great long while since Wes made anything that wasn't sub-par for the course.
He obtains so-so scripts, springs for so-so special FX, & makes movies no better than any dozen first-time horror directors might've made. His one distinguishing factor is he can successfully tempt better actors into his films. He must be just an amazingly sweet man hard to say no too, because no actor of merit would say "yes" based on the quality of the scripts or his last five films.
His last well constructed film was Vampire in Brooklyn (1995) & that was a surprise because before that he hadn't made any particularly effective films since Shocker (1985). He's been coasting on his Elm Street success & if not for the undeserved popularity of the Scream franchise, he'd surely have fallen off the Hollywood map by now.
For Cursed (2005) he once again got an actor better than his material merited. This time it's the always-unique & entertaining Christina Ricci.
She plays a young woman whose mother & father have been killed in an auto accident, & she has complete responsibility for her highschool aged brother (Jesse Eisenberg). The two of them survive a werewolf attacked & become infected.
The movie's only grusome effect is presented in the same scene where brother & sis become infected. A third person in the werewolf attack sequence gets her body ripped off at the waste but she's still is alive & conscious & tries to drag herself along the ground. Very yucko, though old schtick seen in many other films. Even older schtick is the long sequence of running around in a hall of mirrors, which unfortunately is one of the highlights of a film unfolding before our unimpressed eyes.
We never see either the brother or sister transform. We never see Ricci do anyting particular with her new physical strength & hyper senses. Her brother we get to see win a wrestling match at school, BFD. But neither one of them do one bloody damned thing that required them to be infected by a werewolf.
As for the werewolf, in some shots it looks like a recycled head prosthetic from some other movie, mismatched to some truly abysmal computer generated FX that at best resemble a mediocre action video game.
When it's finally killed it looks like a stuffed sasquatch. Then not to our surprise there turns out to be another werewolf, the originator of the line. The movie informs us of a brand new rule about werewolves borrowed from vampire films: If an infected person can kill the originator of the line, their own werewolfism will be instantly cured.
That idea taken in any logical direction means there wouldn't be any werewolves anywhere unless there is some method of becoming one that does not require being infected by an existing werewolf, but we're never told there is such a method, so I guess we're supposed to really believe that this particular alpha werewolf is the first one of all time.
It's just stupid, & how it works in vampire films is usually that you just have to kill the one who turned you, not find the first of all vampires. Nevertheless, there it is, the idea that our heroine & her brother aren't doomed to be werewolves after all if they can just kill the alpha male. Looks like this one's headed for a "happy ever after."
Now when a film is this ordinary I start looking for reasons to be amused. Didn't Zipper the werewolf dog burst through the front door chasing the two boys to the car? But when brother & sister return home later that night, someone had repaired the door while they were away. Nor was there any evidence of the interior kitchen door the weredog had burst into splinters. There were a half-dozen other continuity problems suggesting that Wes makes mediocre films because he really doesn't care anymore.
There was even a "don't go in the basement!" scene in which the brother goes in the basement, wanders around in the dark for a while, then comes back out of the basement.
Is it supposed to be a funny joke that nothing happened in the basement? Hard to believe such a dreary cliche could be made even more boring, but there you go.
In the puny climax it is brother & sister versus the werewolf tramping around in the house. Once again, brother & sis never seriously draw on their special powers to defeat him, never undergo any particular transformation, so it isn't werewolf vs werewolf or anything cool, it is recycled werewolf prosthetics & CGI vs two young people screaming & running around the house & finally stabbing him in the heart with silverware & hacking off his head with a shovel (good thing they had a shovel in the kitchen) then the werewolf bursts into flame (though the previous one didn't) -- magic flames that don't catch the kitchen on fire.
There is one scene where the brother uses his newfound power to crawl on the ceiling to escape the clutches of the werewolf. Crawling on ceilings is a pretty goofy werewolf power, maybe he'd actually been bitten by a were-fly, cuz otherwise why did only the never-transformed brother have this dorky ability? Why couldn't the full-blown werewolf jump up & run around on the ceiling to? Because it would look doubly stupid perhaps?
The side-story of the cowardly golden retriever infected with werewolfism was sort of cute, but mostly a failed attempt at something interesting treated half as humor. The computer-FX weredog was no more convincing than a Scooby-doo cartoon. Then the weredog is just written out of the script so as not to be part of the climax, missing a great opportunity for a werewolf vs weredog encounter to spice up the boring final battle the alpha wolf had with brother & sister.
I'd've had Zipper the weredog overcome his cowardliness & stand between the brother & sister & the alpha wolf so it'd be the whole were-family including their were-pet standing in unity against the evil alpha wolf.
It woulda cost more than the dime's worth of FX so Zipper just vanishes from the story until after the alpha wolf is dead & doggy can come home once again his old self the useless-as-a-guard-dog coward.
Wes does occasionally add dashes of characterization to his films so that his actors have something to actually do besides scream, & the side-story of the nerdy brother picked on by a highschool jock who finally comes out of the closet & admits he's been a bully so no one would know he's gay, I liked that little subplot. And I certainly liked that that side-character was still alive at the end of the story. One thing Wes does understand that younger directors do not, is that not everyone has to die in some gore-gag before a story is finished.
Apparently it could've been much worse. When the film was first finished, the distributor rejected it & demanded a massive reshoot of many of the scenes. It was reported that in four major reshoots, 90% of the original cut was replaced. The new version apparently wasn't much better, so cutting their losses, the distributor had it re-edited for a PG-13 rating so it could be marketed to teenyboppers in the theaters. But what I saw was the R rated DVD which has fewer excuses for being so tepid.
Some have blamed the medicority of Curse on a distributor who jerked Wes around, but it's faults are not greater than most of his films for the last fifteen years. My own sense is that when such an awful film as Scream is all it takes to win Wes a lot of misguided kudos & profits, he just believes that if it's crap that sells, crap it will be.
In the end Cursed just ain't much. It's B-horror of the most ordinary sort & enjoyable as such, as forgettable as the last dozen horror films & the next dozen horror films. But it does have Ricci, & that's one item the other cheezy films of the season lacked.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl