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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

Cursed Wes Craven 2005

Rhymes with "Worst"...

It's true that we have our first contender for Gayest Horror Film of the Year. But it's a damn shame that it will also contend for Most Disappoinging Horror Film of the Year, Most Amusing Train-Wreck of the Year, and Worst Assortment of Bad Wigs of the Year. A rambling, confused, and suprisingly derivitive mess of cliches and red herrings, Cursed is certainly a curiosity of the genre, but unfortunately not much more. Lacking originality and surprisingly short on scares and decent gags, the film feels like a bunch of curveballs thrown at the audience in an attempt to distract them from the fact that they're actually watching a series of shitty dialogue scenes peppered with D-list cameos instead of a horror movie. Wes and Kevin, go straight to bed without any supper.

Cursed begins square in the middle of cliche country, as walking cliches Shannon Elizabeth and Mya (who oddly look almost identical to one another -- who cast these two?!) amble through a leftover location from The Lost Boys (memo to Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven: if you're going to emulate other horror films, try to pick ones that weren't directed by Joel Schumacher, K?) and encounter Portia de Rossi (oddly, the Williamson-scripted I Know What You Did Last Summer featured Anne Heche, also a girlfriend of Ellen Degeneres). She tells them that they're cursed, kicking into gear what may be the best drinking game of the year -- do a shot every time anyone says "cursed" and by the halfway mark you'll be so drunk you might enjoy the remainder of the movie. The gals wander off, and Mya disappears (it's never made clear where she goes -- is this supposed to throw suspicion on her?), leaving Shannon to go home alone. Suddenly, we're outside the Hollywood Wax Museum in downtown L.A., which you may as well instantly forget, since we never come back here (although the entire second act happens in nightclub that looks like a wax museum -- coincidence?). Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg, a painfully mannered actor at the ripe old age of 22) chats up Brooke (Kristina Anapau -- whoever that is), who is apparently supposed to be some sort of love interest despite the fact that she is somewhat rude and dating a man who is both openly sociopathic and obviously gay. Bo (Milo Ventimiglia) pushes Jimmy around in front of Brooke and they leave, firmly establishing that she is a loser and that Jimmy is an idiot for wasting his time with her. He calls his sister...

Ellie (Christina Ricci, looking as though she hasn't eaten since The Opposite of Sex) is visiting her boyfriend Jake (Joshua Jackson, looking as though he hasn't worked since Dawson's Creek), who is preparing for the opening of his colosally stupid-looking nightclub, Tinsel (which, as I mentioned before, is for some reason a wax museum). Jake and Ellie have a brief passive-aggressive moment that makes us instantly dislike the both of them, and Ellie storms off to pick up her brother. On the way home, Ellie and Jimmy hit some sort of animal on the road, which causes them to collide with Shannon Elizabeth and send her car rolling down a hill. They go to help her, and as they free her from her seatbelt she is suddenly grabbed by the beast and pulled out of the car, with Jimmy and Ellie holding on and being pulled through the brush. Moments later, Ellie and Jimmy stumble out of the bushes, both somehow wounded (this really doesn't make any sense), and Shannon is apparently ripped to shreds, although we have to take the paramedic's word for it, because THIS IS A FUCKING PG-13 MOVIE and we won't be seeing any actual blood or violence.

Anyway, Jimmy and Ellie go home and within 45 seconds on the internet Jimmy has figured out that they've been bitten by a werewolf and are now cursed (Chug! Chug! Chug!). Well, glad THAT's out of the way! Well, I guess that this won't be a "discovery" plot structure; I guess that instead we'll be entertained by Ellie and Jimmy being besieged by their new superhuman powers, right? Um, wrong. Apparently if you're bitten by a werewolf in Los Angeles, all that happens is that you go on the Atkins diet and suddenly become "hot" (although in Ricci's case, this actually has to be told to us, on-screen -- by Scott Baio, of all people! -- as it's not actually visible). Oh, and if you're a young, awkward high school kid, you lose your Jew-fro and suddenly start using molding product. Product just like the kind that Joshua Jackson apparently uses... heeeeeyyyyyy...

Sadly, the werewolf cliches come out hard and heavy here: they suddenly crave meat and can smell blood. Seen it. They become more agile. Seen it. There's a scene where the neighborhood dogs surround the house, which was actually quite funny because of a Corgi to the left-hand side of the screen that is obviously untrained and simply looks off-screen at his master with his tail wagging. There's a scene where Ellie sort of wolfs-out in the bathroom, which could have taken things in an entirely new direction by using some sort of menstral blood gag or something (could you imagine her digging through the sanitary disposal bin? Now that would have been something fresh...), but which instead is a forced suspense scene that goes nowhere. Honestly -- if you've seen even one werewolf movie, you've seen everything here, only done better (remember the agony that Ginger goes through in Ginger Snaps, growing a tail and eating the neighbor's dog and all that? Nope -- not here.).

Anyway, back to the plot: Ellie runs into Jake at Scott Baio's house, and in my favorite moment of the film, the two talk "in private", which consists of walking 4 feet from where they were standing, in the middle of a crowded party (don't know if it was intentionally funny, but it's hilarious either way). And who should show up but Mya, dressed as a leopard, who -- utterly unfazed that her good friend was ripped to pieces the night before -- sets about trying seduce Jake in front of Ellie. What the fuck is up with women in L.A.? Judy Greer, as a bitchy publicist, appears and tries to do the same, and Ellie hits the road, not wanting to get into it. Mya strikes out and decides to leave as well, and we have our first honest-to-god scare sequence, which pits Mya against the big hairy baddie (the werewolf, not Joshua Jackson) in a parking garage and an elevator. This scene is good, people -- and it's what I was expecting to be watching for 90 minutes, rather than the shitty TV-quality dialogue that I've been forced to suffer through thus far. And kids, enjoy it while it lasts -- because it's all downhill from here: after Mya squares off against the beastie, we're in Point Pleasant territory until the end of the movie, all squinting and whining. In mere minutes the film will be reduced to crappy CGI were-dogs (the horror genre's equivalent to the Dancing Baby, perhaps?), more jaw-dropping cameos (Lance Bass! Craig Kilborn! What, was Macy Gray too expensive?), enough red herrings to fill a fish market, and a lame and predictable "twist" (hint: if it was good enough for Scream, it's good enough for Cursed!) that does nothing more than drag the movie out for another 10 minutes.

It's all just a shame, really. The real problem with Cursed is that the characters are utterly unreactive to everything going on around them. People are getting wounded in accidents and ripped to ribbons (again: apparently -- it's not like we see it) around them, and no one really seems to care -- Ricci (whom I generally like) is absolutely horrible, and her character comes across so self-centered and shallow that it's impossible to like her, even notwithstanding her alarmingly one-note performance (the scene where she sniffs out blood in the office seriously looks like one of those self-consciously campy Axe deodorant commercials). Eisenberg twitches his way through his role, and considering that he's supposed to be a teenager, it's a little easier to forgive his stupid behavior, but it doesn't get him far. Everyone else is either floridly insane or only around when it's convenient to the script, and are so obviously red herrings that there's no incentive to paying much attention to any of them (including Michael Rosenbaum, who sports a wig that is scarier than the actual werewolf). And without enough scary stuff going on to at least keep things tense, it's literally an assortment of bad dialogue scenes that seem to have been plugged in to patch together other pieces of the original script. A simple evisceration can hide a multitude of dialogue sins, but we don't even get that -- we get a bad CGI werewolf and Lance Bass.

So let's talk gay, shall we? Well, we've got the obvious repressed homo, who announces his imminent coming-out by calling Jimmy a fag the first time he appears on screen. When Jimmy kicks his ass in wrestling tryouts, Bo does an alarming 180 and comes to Jimmy's house to try to make out with him (uh, what?). Sure, it's kind of funny, but this exact storyline was done years ago on Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- in the werewolf episode, no less! Again, nothing new here. I will give Craven and Williamson credit for not simply discarding the character after his gag and making him a central character for the rest of the film, but it actually makes no sense whatsoever. The real surprising thing is that this central homo is not, in fact, the gayest thing about the movie (and no, it's not Lance Bass, either -- or Portia de Rossi, for that matter): the gayest moment is certainly when Ellie and Jimmy square off against a werewolf in the wax museum nightclub... in front of a Cher figure. It all feels more like a Halloween episode of Will & Grace than a horror movie. Actually, no -- the writing's not as good.

I may seem particularly tough on Cursed, but honestly -- the jokes are flat, there's only one suspense sequence, and the characters are horrible. I found myself watching lighting continuity errors and trying to figure out what set pieces came from the original concept and which were added in re-shoots, which isn't a testament to the narrative. Considering how legitimately clever and scary Scream is (watch it again -- it's pretty tight), I can't believe that this derivitive mess came from the same people: rather than playing with cliches like Scream did, Cursed simply is cliches. The acting is horrendous, the effects are embarrassing, and nothing new is brought to the werewolf table (as opposed to other great werewolf films like An American Werewolf in London or The Howling, which put the mythology into a new, modern context). Actually, this may as well not even be a werewolf movie at all -- as the two "cursed" people never even turn into werewolves anyway, what the fuck is the point? All we have is a weak mystery-killer story with a convenient shape-shifter element thrown in to help disguise the villain. And that's just a waste. See it out of curiosity if you must, but keep your expectations at about knee-level.

Audience Participation Alert: My favorite moment of the screening I attended was when a girl in the audience screamed out, in abject horror, "Look at her forehead!"; Ricci's hairline had moved noticeably since earlier scenes, increasing her usual Ten-Finger Forehead to at least fifteen...

Rating (out of 5):