Ten years ago this month, Wes Craven’s Cursed hit theaters, and he couldn’t have picked a more apt title for what turned out to be a remarkably troubled project. It was Craven’s third major collaboration with Scream-writer Kevin Williamson (I don’t count Scream 3 since he didn’t write that one), so my expectations at the time were probably somewhat unrealistic. Then again, the fact that Craven was forced to deliver a PG-13 cut for theatrical distribution should have tempered them somewhat, but at least home viewers have the option of choosing the “Unrated Version,” which is essentially what audiences would have seen had Dimension not punked out in the first place. Some might accuse them of shortchanging the Craven faithful who sought Cursed out in theaters, but as so few werewolf films aimed at adults get wide releases these days, we tend to take what we can get.
And what we’ve got here is a brazen, yet still somewhat successful, attempt by Craven and Williamson to apply the Scream template to a werewolf story, right on down to the multiple red herrings/suspects. There’s even a compressed time-frame since the action takes place over the course of a single three-moon cycle, which certainly helps keep things moving. As for the story, it’s centered around talk show producer Christina Ricci and her brother, awkward high-schooler Jesse Eisenberg, who get into a horrific car accident one night on Mulholland Drive (which may be how they lost their parents — apparently a fairly recent tragedy) and, while trying to help the driver of the other vehicle, get attacked by a werewolf. The other driver (Shannon Elizabeth) gets ripped to shreds (prompting Ricci to ask the standard werewolf movie question, “What happened to her, what kind of an animal could do that?”), but brother and sister walk away with only minor abrasions, which means they’ve now been — say it with me — cursed.
This being a Craven/Williamson joint, the supporting cast is packed to the hilt, starting with Joshua Jackson as Ricci’s love interest, a harried club owner preparing for his big opening, Judy Greer as the “psycho” publicist for Happy Days alumnus Scott Baio (whose casting recalls Henry Winkler’s turn as the principal in Scream), Milo Ventimiglia as an alpha-male bully whose homophobic taunts gall Eisenberg, Kristina Anapau as the nice girl he likes, Portia de Rossi as the fortune teller who warns Elizabeth (and singer Mýa) about their dark fates, Michael Rosenbaum as a co-worker who’s smitten with Ricci, and Craig Kilborn as the host they both work for. He’s also a clear sign that Cursed had a rather protracted post-production period since Kilborn left The Late Late Show in August 2004, a full six months before this was released. I suspect the studio-mandated re-shoots may also be why Rick Baker’s special make-up effects are supplemented by additional make-up and werewolf effects by Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger.
So, the question remains, is the unrated version of Cursed better than the one I saw in theaters one decade ago? I would say undoubtedly yes. There are some areas where it doesn’t quite come together on a story level, but overall it’s an enjoyable ride that should satisfy even the most discriminating werewolf fan. It’s just too bad none of the video releases include a commentary by Craven and Williamson. I’m sure between the two of them they could have explained a great deal.