Cursed was aptly-named. Plagued by production problems, this movie was supposed to be the hot new venture by director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson, high off their success with the Scream franchise. Instead, their new werewolf picture fell flat on its face, critically and commercially.
So what went wrong? Well, in a lot of ways, Cursed was simply too much - too self-stylized, too familiar, and too overwrought. We open on two women at a carnival. They decide to see a fortune teller, receiving in exchange the gravest warning possible: "violent death! Avoid her!" The young ladies leave in fear and disgust.
Next, we're with Ellie (Christina Ricci). She's the lead here, and we're quickly introduced to her life: she works in TV (on The Craig Killborne Show), her boyfriend Jake (Joshua Jackson) is a nightclub owner/playboy who's dodging her, and she has a loser-ific younger brother, Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg), who always needs her to give him a ride. From the get-go, there is no connection between the opening and this segment, nor does it really dovetail into the premise.
Oh wait - while driving her brother home in the opening 15 minutes, they get into a car wreck. When the pair tries to rescue the other driver, all three are attacked by a vicious animal that slashes the siblings and rips the other driver apart. And I gotta say: even with 20/20 vision, it's really hard to tell that the other driver - who is upside down the whole time - is one of the doomed girls from the carnival. DUN DUN DUN!
From there, Jimmy proceeds too quickly into "oh god it was a werewolf" territory. He's a teen, so I can buy that he's adamant about what he saw... But it's forced, just like the fact that he reads comic books - why does he already have werewolf-specific comics? I'm annoyed enough by Williamson returning (yet again) to high school drama, but why didn't Jimmy need to go out and buy those?
No, wait, then it would remind us of The Lost Boys, and it's a bad idea to repeat the moves of a superior film.
Likewise, both Ellie and Jimmy are too overt (read: overacted/overwritten) in showing how they are starting to change after the attack. Ellie is literally slinking down a hallway and sniffing people, while her brother eats cold cuts voraciously (and, ugh, why does he add so much salt?). It's like the movie has ADHD and doesn't want to let any moment breathe.
At the same time, we have to deal with the creepy, obsessive Jake. I used to have issues with Joshua Jackson, but his on- and off-camera work on Fringe really made me appreciate him. As Jake, he does a 0-60 in 2 seconds, moving from "I need space" to "we're perfect together! BE WITH ME! *breaks something* No wait... I'm calm now."
It's like 5 episodes of a teen WB series condensed into half an ep, written by someone on some really bad drugs. And since Ricci is more than just a pretty face, and since her character - Ellie - is a strong, smart, independent woman, it's the most disappointing cliche. No one wanted to see her strung along by a playboy, but that's a risk of LA dating. But absolutely no one wants to see this tired old obsessive-abusive bf bulls--t.
Except the writer, apparently.
As you can tell, I lay most of this at Mr. Williamson's feet. The film is packed with Hollywood types and TV insiders, and their dialogue is just too cute, too snarky, and overall trying too hard. Because of the way the story races from beginning to end, we don't buy Jake and Ellie's romance or their fights, nor do we believe in what the siblings are going through.
The high school sequences are too slight - no one cares that Jimmy gets picked on a little or about his love from afar with "a sweet girl (who dates bullies)." These scenes also take time from his sister's office, which is both the more interesting setting and the one with somewhat interesting secondary characters. Those moments were the best chance to develop the rest of the disappointingly-thin roles. "Excess fat" + "being too slim" is not a winning formula.
Moreover, while I can credit the writer with trying to add an element of mystery and psyching out the audience, it's too hard to get invested and the result even feels too much like a retread of Scream itself (8 years later!). Mysteries need to be mysterious, and Cursed isn't cutting it.
The biggest problem here is simple: I get the feeling that Kevin Williamson had the idea to do The Lost Boys, but for werewolves. So many elements are similar that it's hard to see any other inspiration: mythic monsters, a dark romance/seduction, some supernatural curse as a metaphor for life changes, a carnival, California, comic books as reference material, the whole "join us" thing...
But Lost Boys was perfect at what it was trying to achieve. Cursed does not take enough time to establish its setting, too many jokes fall flat, and the characters aren't charismatic or compelling enough to make anyone really care. While the penultimate fight scene has 1 or 2 great jokes in it, there is too little charm and tension for this movie to live up to either Scream or tLB.
In the end, all I can say is that at least they had a female protagonist. COUGHeven tho they gave her an abusive boyfriend and people only compliment her once she starts undoing some blouse buttonsCOUGH