Friday, March 20, 2015

A Cinemasochists Second Look at Wes Craven - Cursed (2005)

A Cinemasochists Second Look At Wes Craven
Part 1: 
Cursed (2005)

Horror directors, more than any other directors, have the highest highs and the lowest lows. They can change film history with one film and then with another, completely tarnish it. Why is this? Most tend to argue that it's studio interference and some say it's just plain luck. One such horror 'auteur' has been through this time and time again. He's made two generations worth of classic teen horror, he's made films that were banned, he jumped from horror and came crawling back and he's also made some of the most flawed and quickly forgotten horror films of all time. He is Wes Craven.

I am going to randomly go through his back catalog and cherry pick some of his lesser known and perhaps forgotten films. His bombs. His embarrassments. Whatever you want to call them, I'll be giving them a second look (or in some cases, my first look) and see if they're as bad as everyone remembers.
After all, that's Cinemasochists thing, isn't it?

The first Wes Craven joint I picked is Cursed from 2005. Made 9 years after Wes Craven's second coming with Scream and it's subsequent sequels, Cursed had everything going for it. Kevin Williasom (Scream) wrote the screenplay and the cast was impressive for the time, with Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Joshua Jackson, Judy Greer, Shannon Elizabeth, and Portia DeRossi It was supposed to be a no brainer hit, but unfortunately ended up a disappointment on all ends.

Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg play siblings who, after hitting an animal in the Hollywood hills, get into a car wreck with another woman played by Shannon Elizabeth. As they try to help save the woman, they are attacked by a werewolf who tears the other woman apart and claws at both Jimmy and Ellie (Eisenberg and Ricci, respectively) in their arms. The next morning both Jimmy and Ellie start to exhibit weird behaviors like a voracious appetite for meat and a newfound sexual confidence. Jimmy, believing it was a real werewolf, goes on the internet to investigate while Ellie heads to work for the Craig Kilborn show. (Side note: By the time this film was released, the Craig Kilborn show was off the air and handed over to Craig Ferguson)
Along the way we meet Jake (Joshua Jackson) who is Ellie's boyfriend and right out of the gate, it's obvious that there's something not right about this guy. We also meet Ellie's co-worker and typical movie bitch, Joanie (Judy Greer) as well a high school bully turned bad gay joke, Bo (Milo Ventimigilia)
Jimmy and Ellie realize they are literally turning into werewolves and as the next full moon approaches, they surprisingly discover some people in their lives are not who they seem, but to us the audience its as clear as day.

Cursed plays on werewolf move cliches like Scream did for slasher cliches. However, the final product isn't as particularly funny, scary or ironic as Scream and comes across like a straight teen horror film with a bit of an identity crisis. There are scenes that play homages to movies like Teen Wolf (Jimmy goofily shows his new masculinity by beating the whole wrestling team in front of his crush) and set ups that could've been used more to their advantage; (a party hosted by PETA in one scene is particularly hardy-har funny)
Wes Craven is good at making briskly paced, entertaining horror films and at this point he can do it with his hands tied behind his back. Which is most likely what happened here. Supposedly the script was re-written so many times, that an entire cast was shot (including Corey Feldman, Skeet Ulrich, Omar Epps and Heather Langenkamp) and then later completely cut out. Cursed is an example of a movie that COULD HAVE been and unfortunately, the title is way too poignant. It's messy and it's clear that the studio wanted a PG-13 cut down (which they got upon theatrical release) versus a Scream like R rating (which I assume the original script was) and because of that, it's confusing at times.
All of that being said, it's still a fun and entertaining film. Luckily it was made before Twilight ruined teenagers perceptions of werewolves and we still got a nice dose of Werewolf FX and gore compliments of Rick Baker.
Of all of the Wes Craven films I've seen so far, this falls in the middle. It's not very inspired, but it's also an easy watch.

Cinemasochists Score: -3 

You can stream the "unrated version" of Cursed on Netflix or rent on any VOD outlet. 

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