Starring: Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Shannon Elizabeth, Joshua Jackson
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson
Studio: Dimension Films
Rated: PG-13 for horror violence/terror, some sexual references, nudity, language and a brief drug reference.
Werewolf movies of a decent quality are seriously under-represented in the horror genre. While classics like The Howling and An American Werewolf in London are first named when the subject comes to mind, there is rarely anything mentioned following those two titles, save perhaps the Ginger Snaps series and Dog Soldiers. When it became apparent that Wes Craven was set to direct a new werewolf film, hopes were high. Unfortunately, once Cursed hit theaters, it became all too clear that fans would still have to wait for a quality film
The star power on this film is not surprising, given the resurgence of popularity in horror films. Craven directs another Kevin Williamson script, with Christina Ricci in a starring role and supporting roles by Joshua Jackson - a throwback to Williamson's Dawson's Creek, Portia di Rossi and a wide cast, including an inexplicable yet highly amusing cameo by Scott Baio - as himself.
Ricci's character and younger brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) find themselves infected by a werewolf bite following a car accident on the requisite deserted road and seem to accept this as the explanation of a newfound sense of power all too quickly. This is only the first in a steady stream of bad editing -- which is no surprise given the film's long and arduous journey in getting to print. Hitting the cutting room floor along with a good deal of gore that warranted the film's original R-rating (edited to PG-13 in an effort, it would seem, to market towards a younger crowd) were roles meant for 90’s slasher film veterans Skeet Ulrich and Freddie Prinze Jr.
Continuity errors aside, the film progresses quickly. Viewers learn that Ellie and Jimmy's parents are dead, leading to a certain amount of sentimentality in regards to a sister / brother relationship that is all that is left for the two in terms of family. The horror genre itself suffers a blow from changing technology when Jimmy identifies their new lycanthropic nature by way of a website and not the usual creepy old psychic or funky ancient book, but given the modern edge to the film it works fine.
A good deal of the film is, in a word, useless. There are no surprises here; each of the two siblings deal with their changing bodies in their own ways. Elli reacts with horror, while Jimmy uses new strength to his advantage in thwarting a high school bully (Milo Ventimiglia). The levity injected into the film at this point, in which weakling Jimmy tosses school wrestlers about like rag dolls, is a much needed break from the monotony of the film to this point.
The main problem with this film, apart from the obvious hack and slash editing job, is the lack of innovation. Take away the famous faces and you have a typical direct to video werewolf release. While Craven's tongue in cheek style becomes evident from a plot specific night club that recreates famous horror scenes - including a few ghosts from Craven's own past - there is still not enough to let this film stand out from the pack.
Character denies that they are a werewolf
Character comes to terms
Character needs to kill werewolf that bit them
Character kills wrong werewolf
Character kills right werewolf
The cast itself might have been enough of a draw if they had been used to any degree of their talent, but a lukewarm script and disjointed editing have even taken the shine off of Christina Ricci, who is well known for her ability to take her roles quite dark and yet here was left a whimpering dishrag for the majority of the film. The only real notable performance was Jesse Eisenberg’s amusing turn as geekling turned wolfboy Jimmy who manages an at least passable performance with the sadly humdrum script afforded him.
Overall, the film had great possibility but was dampened by a lack of originality. While the editing issues only made it worse, the greatest damage comes from the limited innovation to the genre. The movie isn't the worst out there, but it is definitely not the best, and not even star power can redeem it. Werewolf fans will just have to keep waiting.