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Cursed: Unrated Version
Let's get one thing straight, right off the bat: This "unrated version" of Cursed is not what the horror fans are looking for. The Cursed that we'd like to see is the one that Wes Craven put together before the Miramax folks tore it apart -- if such a version even exists anymore. The history of this film's production has been marred by extensive rewrites, production stoppages, re-castings, and wholesale facelifts. There's a pretty fascinating book waiting to be written about the Cursed backstory -- but even those who'd love to read that book will find very little insight in this "unrated" DVD edition.
Bottom Line: This is the exact same Cursed that you saw in the movies (if you were among the 217 people who bothered), with just a few extra bits of gore and gristle thrown into the mix. Theatrically, Cursed ran 97 minutes; the "unrated" version runs 99. (It's been widely reported that Miramax snipped Cursed from an R to a PG-13 less than a month before the film's theatrical release; similar reports indicate that this "unrated" version is the exact same cut that played in Canada.)
(Brief Spoiler Alert: As far as I can tell from my two visits with Cursed, the "new bits" include: a gorier demise for Shannon Elizabeth, a little bit of nastiness between Judy Greer and the dead body of the actor who plays Lex on Smallville, and a more gruesome depiction of a certain decapitation. End Alert)
So how about the movie itself? Well, I really hoped that Cursed would improve with a second visit. I felt that maybe I'd just been sucked into the negative media frenzy surrounding the flick a few months ago -- but, alas, nope. The thing's still pretty darn awful.
It sounded great from the outset: horror-master Wes Craven would reunite with his Screamwriter Kevin Williamson, and the pair would head off to make a modern-day Werewolf Movie, while Dimension Films would happily foot the bill. Horror fans were psyched, the filmmakers seemed happy, and the studio would undoubtedly have some sort of half-decent hit on their hands.
So what the hell happened?
Since movie studios generally don't put out press releases regarding inevitable fiascoes, we're only able to piece together the unpleasant history of Cursed through a few leaky pieces of generally-accepted tidbits:
1. The script was never fully finished when production started.
2. The shooting set was not exactly a pleasant one.
3. The studio execs did not like the end product.
4. Extensive reshoots were scheduled.
5. Several actors found their characters scattered across the editing room floor. Many were excised completely.
6. New actors were brought in to play new (and old) characters.
7. More stuff was shot, most of which was glued together with material from shoot #1.
8. Once the 'rejiggered' version was complete, test screenings yielded largely unpleasant results.
9. In a last-ditch effort to make this thing even remotely profitable, the execs opted to snip the gory bits, trim down the intensity, and package this malformed mass into a PG-13 kiddie affair.
10. Cursed is quietly thumped into theaters during Oscar weekend while the studio crosses its fingers and hopes for Boogeyman-type numbers.
If this story sounds a whole lot like what happened with last year's Exorcist: The Beginning, then the moral should be plainly clear to even the greediest studio suit: stop making movies by committee! You don't trust Mr. Craven & Mr. Williamson to bang out a quality horror flick? Don't hire 'em! You want to rush into production without the assistance of a finished screenplay? You get what you deserve. And please don't think I'm reviewing this movie based upon its troubled production; lots of great movies went through ridiculously difficult gestation periods.
Despite every unflattering thing I'd heard about Cursed, I went in to the movie wanting to find something I'd like. Honest. I'm sometimes accused of being a little bit "charitable" to the horror films, and that's a fair claim: I freaking love good horror movies! But it's my knowledge of (and passion for) the genre that forces me to call this one plain and straight:
Cursed is the worst sort of studio horror movie imaginable. It's a cynical and soulless little husk that trots out cliche after convention; it has no drive or momentum or darkness. It offers just enough visual excitement to fill a two-minute trailer, it features actors both bored and boring, there's nothing remotely spooky or creepy or compelling. This is simply one of the most inert horror films I've ever seen.
Plot? OK, fine...
A brother and sister: A) hit a werewolf on the road, B) witness Shannon Elizabeth being devoured, C) get bitten or scraped (or something), and D) end up "cursed". And we all know what that means: find that pesky head werewolf quick! (But take your time doing it.) And since we're talking about a movie written by Kevin (Dawson's Creek) Williamson, you can obviously expect huge dollops of oh-so-clever glibness, self-referential mockery, and huge long-winded speeches.
The talented and lovely Christina Ricci is basically fed to the wolves here. Since the film was shot, re-shot, and then shot a little more, her performance ranges from earnest to absent to entirely unfocused. (Plus the length of her hair changes in seemingly every other scene, and that's pretty distracting.) The rest of the cast members occupy their one-note characters with a generic intensity. Jesse Eisenberg does the "geek gets superpowers" schpiel; Joshua Jackson does the sweetheart-who-just-might-be-evil thing; Shannon Elizabeth gets devoured; and the supremely funny actress Judy Greer gets to play a humorless bitch. Just brilliant.
Like Exorcist: The Beginning proved: if you can't make a movie once, best not to, y'know, make it twice.
Video: A widescreen (2.40:1) anamorphic transfer helps the film in a way that the plot, characters, and screenplay do not. It's actually quite impressive.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English) track is quite clean and clear. The hyper-shrieky musical score will "jar" you into thinking the movie is scarier than it actually is. Also included are a French 2.0 track and optional subtitles in English and Spanish.
First I most note that the special features menu screens presents one of the goofiest pictures of Mya I've ever seen. (Or maybe it's Shannon Elizabeth. All these drone-girls look the same to me.)
Behind the Fangs: The Making of Cursed has next to nothing to do with the actual "making" of the movie. Several cast & crew members share some on-set opinions about how Cursed is a post-modern, satirical, gory, horror movie with great art direction, stunts, production design, gore effects, and a whole bunch of lovely actors. Plus everyone loves Wes Craven and uses the word "fun" a whole lot. (7:30)
The Cursed Effects is just a bit more enlightening. FX guru Greg Nicotero, actress Judy Greer, and werewolf performer Derek Mears share some insights into the wolf-making process. Unfortunately, the practical effects are pretty unimpressive, and the CG stuff is even worse. And not a single mention of Rick Baker, the legendary FX genius who walked off the project? Hmph. (6:39)
Creature Editing 101 visits with editor Patrick Lussier (director of Dracula 2000, Dracula 2: Ascension, and Dracula 3: Legacy) as he explains (just a little) about the cuts made for the PG-13 version and the importance of not showing "too much" of your horror film's lead creature. But it's just tough not to giggle when Mr. Lussier professes that "Wes really wanted the werewolf to be smart." (5:30)
Becoming a Werewolf features the hyperactive Jesse Eisenberg as he and Mr. Nicotero prepare to transform actors into werewolves. This mini-mockumentary tries (somewhat desperately) to make with the laughs, and fails pretty consistently. (7:56)
Selected Scenes with Commentary by Special Effects Makeup Supervisor Greg Nicotero and Actor Derek Mears delivers four scenes from the film: Car Wreck, Parking Garage, Tinsel, and Final Fight. You can choose the "play all" function to hear the wolf-masters discuss the various action scenes. "This is CGI, that's a practical effect, this was a set, that was an exterior..." Still, it's quite amusing to hear the "practical" FX guys poke fun at the somewhat shoddy CGI work on display.
When the horror fans gnash their teeth about Worthless Studio Fare, this is precisely the sort of movie they're talking about. Cursed was not created by Wes Craven & Kevin Williamson; it was created by a boardroom full of scissor-happy pencil-pushers desperate to jump on any old bandwagon...and I doubt any those guys even LIKE horror movies.
And if you're among the horror fans who were hoping for a DVD that could shed some light on to this movie's long and painful conception, prepare to be disappointed.
A double feature of Scream and An American Werewolf in London will deliver precisely what Cursed tried to be -- and failed miserably.
(Portions reprinted from my original (theatrical) review of the film.)