"Cursed" is the latest terrorfest from shock-and-shiver expert Wes Craven ("Nightmare on Elm Street," "Scream"). And he's definitely not at his bloody best here -- even though the movie reunites him with wisecracking "Scream" writer Kevin Williamson.
Together again, the "Scream" team has whipped up another tongue-in-cheek Hollywood horror pastiche, starring sultry Christina Ricci and likably gangly Jesse Eisenberg as Ellie and Jimmy, siblings faced with werewolf attacks and the possibility they may be going wolf themselves. Joshua Jackson is Ellie's fantastically unreliable boyfriend Jake -- a possible wolf in wolf's clothing -- and Scott Baio and Craig Kilborn appear in cameos as themselves. The movie boasts some tangy Hollywood Boulevard atmosphere and at least a few of the usual Craven jolts and jumps.
So why was "Cursed" dumped into theaters Friday without any reviewers' screenings -- usually a sure sign a studio thinks the picture is a potential critical dog?
"Cursed" isn't a very good movie, but it's more an uninspired letdown than a flabbergasting turkey. Ricci's Ellie produces interview segments on Kilborn's late "Late Late Show," while Jake toils away at the Hollywood Wax Museum with a horde of old girlfriends popping up -- and Jimmy gets hassled as a `homo" by the thugs at his school. Also complicating matters are mean publicist Joannie (Judy Greer), who helps mess up Ellie's love life.
Williamson and Craven smoothly weave together these two milieus -- Ellie's TV/showbiz community and Jimmy's high school hell -- and then send the werewolves and infections raging through both in their usual jokey way. But they never manage to create the kind of amusingly self-contained little world they had in "Scream." There are a few good scare scenes -- the first and best involving a potentially fatal Mulholland Drive car crash that turns into something far worse -- but little of the pizazz or surprise we expect from Craven. In the werewolf movie canon, this one is a long way behind "The Howling," "Wolfen," "An American Werewolf in London," Mike Nichols' "Wolf" or even the original "Wolf Man."
One reason for this lack of bite lies in the werewolves themselves. They're a bit too teddy-bearish, even oddly cuddly, and the fright scenes work better when you don't see much of them. "Cursed" is not too much worse than most of the big studio product hitting theaters during these post-Oscar-qualifying season doldrums.
But coming from the usually reliable shocker Craven, it's no scream.
Running time: 1:36; rated PG-13 for horror violence/terror, some sexual references, nudity, language and a brief drug reference.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times