"... the Cursed experience was so screwed up. I mean, that went on for two-and-a-half years of my life for a film that wasn't anything close to what it should have been.” - Wes Craven (Ain’t it Cool News - 2008)
Cursed went on for only 97 minutes of my life, so I do see it fit to be slightly more forgiving; but only slightly. The 2005 collaboration from the makers of Scream centers on a pair of siblings (Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg) who are infected with a werewolf curse when an ill-fated car accident in the Hollywood Hills leads a hot girl in peril (Shannon Elizabeth) to certain death despite the rescue efforts of our heroes. Of course, the traditional discovery, transformation, mystery maulings, and plot twists ensue.
There was very little exposition to start off or entice any concern for the established characters and the cinematography is noticeably odd. It reminded me of watching a soap opera with decent lighting. Without any action-oriented design the scares aren’t effective, the jumps are predictable, and there is absolutely no sense of foreboding despite the best efforts of a truly terrible soundtrack. Even the appearance of local cop Nick Offerman couldn’t add any tingle to the dull I was lulled into. And don’t even get me started on the “effects.”
Then a magical thing happened; around the halfway point, chemistry kicked in between Milo Ventimiglia and Eisenberg reacting to the newly cursed family dog. Suddenly, what started out as a sad attempt at horror took a cue from the plot device and transformed into something much more interesting – satire. For the remainder of the film, I was able to laugh at the scares, enjoy the comic delivery of the one and only Judy Greer, and roll with the punches of half a dozen very clear misleads and abandoned twists.
Although it’s never made clear whether some of writer Kevin Williamson’s on-the-nose wit was finally allowed to breathe or if the refreshingly natural dialogue was ad-libbed, it does become noticeable when the actors seem to catch on to the homage. With the exception of Ricci, whose damsel in distress more closely mimics Michael Scott in an improv class than virginal scream queen, the performances are delightfully campy.
Unlike 2001’s Stacy, the Japanese horror zombie comedy or 2007’s Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez’s contribution to the Grindhouse double feature, Cursed doesn’t seem to know it’s funny as a whole. Had it started out with that goal in mind or had the studio (Dimension Films) not interrupted the process, Cursed could have easily seen more success than the many copycat Screams that infested the theaters after Ghostface made us laugh until we shrieked.