As regular readers will know, I’m fond of werewolf movies, so the prospect of one directed by horror legend and all-round nice guy Wes Craven was something I was eager to get my teeth into. Cursed follows a brother and sister (Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci) who survive a car crash but get bitten by a wolf and, you guessed it, begin to change. Hoooooowl etc.
Now, I love Wes Craven. He’s one of my favourite directors (and tweeters) whose ability to fuse exploitation thrills with intelligent substance is perhaps unparalleled in horror cinema. So it causes me genuine pain, like killing a loved one because they’ve become a werewolf, to admit that Cursed is pretty lame.
The script is by Kevin Williamson, who wrote Wes Craven’s Scream movies and tries to go for a similar combination of comedy and horror albeit without the meta-analysis of the genre. The problem is that it’s neither funny nor scary, ultimately feeling toothless and sub-Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To an extent that’s inevitable, given the impressive shadow cast by Buffy. But one gag, involving a misunderstanding over lycanthropy and homosexuality, is lifted directly and shamelessly from Joss Whedon’s seminal show.
Then there’s what I’ll call The Catwoman Effect. In Catwoman, Halle Berry is resurrected by magic cats and begins her transformation into the feline femme fatale – a transformation which, in a hilariously misjudged move by the filmmakers, sees her develop the characteristics of a domestic cat. So our noble hero starts to lap up milk, becomes distracted by shiny things, and presumably licks her own genitals but they don’t show that bit.
In Cursed a similar thing happens but with dogs. It’s not quite as bad as in Catwoman but the sight of Christina Ricci craving raw meat and sniffing people is fabulously stupid. And like Halle Berry, whose superpowers require that she swap her sensible clothes for a leather fetish outfit, Christina Ricci’s transformation includes letting her hair down and no longer wearing a bra. They don’t mention that bit in werewolf folklore.
While Catwoman had wobbly CGI cats, this has weightless CGI werewolves which completely fail to convince. If An American Werewolf in London has the best cinematic werewolf transformation, and it does, Cursed has the worst. All the cheap computer graphics are particularly depressing given the innovative practical effects which characterised Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.
All that really stops this movie from being as bad as its opening car crash is Jesse Eisenberg, whose talent as a comic actor makes him an excellent screen presence. Oh and brief appearances from Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman and Arrested Development’s Portia de Rossi and Judy Greer. Beyond that, Cursed succeeds only as proof that we all make mistakes. Even Wes Craven.