Cursed

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The day after Cursed was released, high-profile movie critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper gave the werewolf flick a "thumbs sideways" rating on their TV show. They couldn't give it a regular thumbs-up or thumbs-down because Dimension Films had refused to allow them an advance viewing of Scream director Wes Craven's latest teen-oriented horror outing. Neither had the influential duo been given a screening of that weekend's other major Hollywood release, the highly suspect Tommy Lee Jones thrillomedy Man of the House. Those omissions left a huge hole in their weekly review show, and the ticked-off Ebert and Roeper speculated that both films must be pretty godawful for the marketers to pull the plug on any advance press. I haven't seen Man of the House, and I don't intend to, but I can safely say that their apprehensions about Cursed were bang-on.

Even with the talented Christina Ricci in the cast, Cursed fails in every conceivable way, and you need only witness the opening scene's amusement-park concert footage for a hint at the ineptitude to come. Of all the hungry rock bands worthy of exposure, the brainiacs at Dimension chose what is arguably the lamest one around: Bowling for Soup. Then there's the fact that Ricci's character, Ellie Hudson, is a staffer on The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn. What, Jimmy Kimmel wasn't available? And guess which celebrity is brought in to play himself as an intended guest on the talk show? Scott Baio from the '80s sitcom Charles in Charge. They weren't just scraping the bottom of the barrel here; they were lifting it up to see what gunk clung to its mouldy base.

All these bogus features wouldn't have mattered that much, though, if there were a slightly entertaining story involved. Forget that. Ellie and her nerdy younger brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) get mauled by a werewolf after a car crash on Mulholland Drive, with predictable results: she becomes hypersensitive to the scent of blood, while he gets strong enough to pound the secretly gay wrestling-team jock who's been tormenting him. And there's major tedium involved in the relationship between Ellie and her low-key boyfriend, Jake (Joshua Jackson), a supposedly magnetic lady-killer redesigning a hip Sunset Strip nightspot to look like a hokey wax museum. Jackson flat-out refuses to act in his major role, as if inspired by Halle Berry's non-performance in the universally panned Catwoman.

Screenwriter Kevin Williamson had previously hit the mark with the taut, cool, and surprising Scream, but here his once-clever pen runs dry; cookie-cutter characters spout inane lines like "She's cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." As for the creature effects, with FX maestro Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) on board, those might have saved the day as well. But Baker's impressive, old-school latex-sculpture tricks get used up early on, and the main transformation scene turns out to be just another routine CGI wankfest. Even gorehounds get burned on this accursed project, as most of the blood 'n' guts were cut to secure a PG-13 rating stateside. Like I said, a failure in every way.