What a depressing mess Cursed is. I bitched about werewolf movies last week in my review of Dog Soldiers, and I wish I could take back every bad word I spoke there because this unfortunate film I am talking about right now is so much worse. So, so much worse.
It's depressing because Wes Craven is entirely capable of making good, and even great, horror movies. The first A Nightmare on Elm Street still scares the shit out of me, even after Freddy Kreuger became a terrible-one-liner spouting hack (pun not intended). The film's got an uncanny (thanks, Freud) way of exploiting nightmare images - your feet sticking to the ground when you try to run away, the way someone chasing you in dreams can change their body to have super-long arms (all the better to reach and disembowel you with, my pretty). It holds up incredibly well. I really enjoyed the sequel Craven did in the endless parade of Nightmare films, New Nightmare - it's much stronger than any of the other sequels and it shows the self-referential waters Craven was heading into, culminating with the Scream films. I've heard countless people say they find the Scream films more "clever" than "great", and to them I give a good stiff thumb-bite - I thoroughly enjoy all three films (true, there are diminishing returns with each successive go), and consider the original opening sequence with Drew Barrymore to be one of the finest genre offerings ever.
And then there's Christina Ricci. Oh Christina. Why do you suck so very much at choosing projects? First there's the Prozac Nation debacle, and now this. Mind you, I think she's always very good, even when she's portraying as reprehensible a soul as Elizabeth Wurtzel or Selby in Monster. Especially in the latter film, in which I was astounded by how much her performance was ignored or even maligned while that blonde South African chick got an Oscar and had Roger Ebert say hers was the finest acting performance ever (Oh Roger). I thought Ricci did her finest acting ever in Monster in a career of good performances, but to each their own.
Anyway, by now the puns of Cursed's title have surely been spent. But what a mess. There was one singular moment of fright, it comes very early, and considering I was watching the "Super-duper UNRATED!!!!" version I'm convinced that this moment I speak of was what was beefed up for DVD since it's the one moment of real gore.
And I'm going to give the entire thing away and save you sitting through the tepid film yourself (don't say I never did nothin' for ya!). Christina Ricci and her brother are driving down Mulholland Drive bickering. They hit something, WHAM, what looks like a dog. It sends their car flying into an oncoming car, and the second car gets pushed over an enbankment and tumbles over and over down a hillside. CR and her brother are fine, the brother calls 911 while CR goes down the hill to see how the people in the other car are. In the other car is "She of the Pert Boobies," Shannon Elizabeth, who's trapped upside down in the driver's seat, the dashboard pinning her there, but otherwise fine. CR and her brother attempt to get her out. The brother succeeds. Just as they're moving out of the upside car, a wolf crashes through the far car window and pulls Pert Boobies out by the throat, dragging CR and her bro along since they're holding on to Pert Boobies (not by the pert boobies, mind you). Blah blah, Pert Boobies gets ripped apart, CR and her brother both get scratched and run away. They come to rest back by the car (not running nearly far enough away), and discuss the requisite "WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT"'s.
Cue scary part. Out of nowhere the upper half of Shannon Elizabeth's body comes flying through the air, slamming into Christina Ricci, knocking her over. We get a really effective shot of CR reacting to what she's seeing beside her, and then we see the half-body lying there, its face twisted into a really awful expression. AND THEN IT MOVES. Shannon Elizabeth starts gasping, her eyes gone wild, and FLIPS HER HALF-BODY OVER and starts pawing at the ground, trying to pull her half-body away, entrails dragging behind her through the dirt and dried leaves. And then, just like that, the gasping and clawing stops and she's dead.
I watched this scene and was ready to tell every critic that they were a moron for dismissing this film so thoroughly. I don't know how much of this moment was in the theatrical version, and how much they added for the DVD, but it's a truly horrifying moment, and Shannon Elizabeth gets a lot of credit for acting the shit out of it. I know, usually when you use the words "acting" and "shit" in regards to Shannon Elizabeth you're saying something else. But not here! She gives great super-freaky death.
Cue the rest of the movie. GOD. The wolves were worse than any CG wolves I've ever seen! And that's saying a lot, because CG werewolves are always crap, but these were just soooo bad. The big transformation scene was like watching a cartoon Popple emerge. Not one scene was shot or edited to ratchet up the slightest bit of tension. A werewolf attack in a PARKING GARAGE??? Involving a Hummer??? I do get that they were aiming for comedy with some of this, but nothing was funny, nothing was scary... Judy Greer gets a free pass because she's always a hoot and was just trying her little heart out to make something fun happen here, but no, it weren't fun! It weren't nothing!
I just remember, mid-big-wolf-attack, just thinking ohmigod this is boring. If you can tilt your head to the side and beg for the thing to end right in the middle of the big scene, then the movie has problems. Christina Ricci was fine, she didn't do anything to embarrass herself, except sign on to do the movie in the first place. Everyone was just lost, with no direction, nothing to work with. The blame's gotta go on Craven this time, and I really hope Red Eye is a return to form cuz the man's got me worried. I know this film was sitting on the shelf forever, and probably got hacked to bits in editing, so hopefully he's got more control this time around and has his head screwed on straight.
Very important final point: If you're going to give me a wrestling match scene where you've touted all sorts of homoerotic tension between two guys all movie long, I want the two guys to be wrestling in their tight little unitards, not fucking baggy sweatshirts and pants! What the fuck is that?