Wes Craven kills his career in ‘Cursed’

Jason LeRoy

“If I lay reeeeeeeeally still, maybe this bad movie will just sniff me and walk away,” says Christina Ricci, who stars in Wes Craven’s new werewolf movie, “Cursed.”

Credit: Jason LeRoy

Cursed is a truly terrible film. It is genuinely difficult to look at it and say, “Well, at least they did that part well.” It fails in nearly every way a movie can fail. And the sad thing is, the once-legendary Wes Craven seems all too aware of this fact.

By two minutes into the film, the audience already has every clue that what they’re about to watch is going to suck. The first tip is that it opens with a performance by Bowling for Soup. It is not exactly advisable to open a film making any sort of bid for seriousness with the utterly ridiculous image of a pop-punk novelty act like BFS.

While Bowling for Soup stand around being stupid, the film’s tiny white titles appear on the screen so rapidly that the filmmakers seem to be saying, “Don’t worry about any of this.” Perhaps they’re hoping that if the names go by fast enough, you won’t remember who was in the film and hold it against them.

The groans from the audience come fast and furious in this film, and they start right off the bat. It doesn’t help that the first actors you see are Shannon Elizabeth and Mya, sporting matching bangs and skin tones, and Portia de Rossi as a big-haired carnival psychic. From the opening sequence onward, the film’s tone is consistently one of cheapness, apathy and ineptitude.

Cursed feels thrown together at the last minute in a slapdash manner, which is at least partially true. As your local film geek may have informed you, the production was plagued by problems, and halted halfway through so the script (by one-time screenwriting wonder Kevin Williamson) could be rewritten. Now you know a script has to be pretty freakin’ bad for a movie’s production to actually shut down so it can be rewritten.

Once the script had been retooled, at least one of the key players, Mandy Moore, was unable to return for reshoots due to a scheduling conflict, which proves that maybe God actually really liked Saved! Mya was recast in the role, and at least half the film was reshot.

Entire performances from the likes of Skeet Ulrich and Omar Epps were deleted. Surely this was very tedious for the cast and crew, and the resulting product shows the strain. It feels like Wes Craven literally just sat back and said, “Oh, fuck it.”

The plot barely warrants a description. Siblings Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) find themselves experiencing bizarre transformations after they are each injured by “some kind of wolf, except for really big” (a werewolf). That’s pretty much the long and the short of it. It’s really more of a premise than a plot.

One of the ways the film fails the most miserably is in its scare factor. The film’s several half-assed attempts at “jump!” moments practically announce themselves several minutes before they happen. Craven and Williamson might as well pause the film and appear on the screen, warning the audience that a scary moment is about to happen.

Additionally, the wolf itself is downright embarrassing. When it’s digital, it’s about as obvious as a gunshot blast to the head. When it’s a costume, it regresses film technology about 30 years.

Cursed would actually be much more frightening if it were about a real live rabid wolf running around and attacking young half-wits.

The other especially depressing aspect of the film is its attempt to be witty and culturally relevant. This used to be the hallmark of any Kevin Williamson script, back when he collaborated with Craven to brilliant and riveting effect on Scream and Scream 2.

He also penned the underrated The Faculty and is responsible for Dawson’s Creek. On the other hand, he also wrote and directed Teaching Mrs. Tingle, so I suppose the abject failure of Cursed isn’t that surprising.

What is this film’s idea of hip, witty content? For one, it’s having Ricci’s character work for the now-defunct The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, a show which Kilborn no longer actually hosts. The film also inexplicably features none other than Scott Baio playing himself in several scenes and even a cameo from Lance Bass (which wouldn’t even have been cool had the film been released two years ago).

The lone amusing aspects of the film are the performances of Jesse Eisenberg and Judy Greer, who manage to have some fun with their roles. Apart from that, Cursed is one of the most desolate cinematic wastelands in recent film memory.

Contact Pop Arts writer Jason C. LeRoy at [email protected].