Continuing on with bad horror films . . .
There’s a sliver of a decent movie somewhere inside Cursed, but it’s mostly buried under worthless characters, inconsistent humor, and a pretty weak lead performance from Christina Ricci.
There’s a werewolf in LA attacking people, as werewolves are prone to do. Siblings Ellie and Jimmy (Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg) are attacked, and bad CGI ensues.
1. I’m not even kidding about that bad CGI.
Cause, you know. It just wouldn’t be a werewolf movie if the werewolves themselves didn’t look absolutely terrible.
2. Cursed was directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson — the dream team that brought you one of my very favorite horror movies of all time: Scream. Of course, they also brought you the various sequels to Scream, so it’s something of a mixed bag. And unfortunately, this isn’t a good addition to the mix.
Part of the problem, I think, is that this movie can’t quite figure out what tone it wants to set. Scream managed an awesome balance of scary and funny, and I think Cursed is out to do more of the same, but somehow it doesn’t really manage either. There are some good funny moments, sure, but the humor falls flat in plenty of other places, and it’s certainly never scary. Not even a little bit.
3. It doesn’t help that our lead heroine, Ellie, is really annoying.
And this is funny because I like Christina Ricci in plenty of other things. Sleepy Hollow, The Laramie Project, Black Snake Moan, a guest spot on Grey’s Anatomy, and of course, The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values. I LOVED Wednesday Addams when I was a kid. Hell, I dressed up as her for Halloween when I was, I don’t know, nine? I don’t think she’s a bad actress at all.
But in Cursed, all of Ricci’s line deliveries are just . . . whiny. You know that whole scary movie trope where a guy and a girl are making out in a car in the middle of the woods, and the girl hears some spooky sound and clutches her man’s letterman jacket and is all, “I’m serious, Rick! I really heard something. I’m scaaaaared.” THAT is how Ricci sounds throughout this movie, high-pitched and petulant, and it’s grating as hell.
At one point, Ellie says something suitably whiny — I wish I could remember the exact line — and I just couldn’t stop myself from mocking the little wail in her voice afterwards. What made it funny was that my friend and sister, also watching, apparently felt compelled to make the exact same ‘wah’ sound simultaneously.
If the performance from your lead actress is inducing mock baby tears in unison, that’s probably a bad sign.
4. Also, Ellie’s little freak-out that her current boyfriend, Jake (Joshua Jackson), slept around a lot before he met her? Yeah, it’s not particularly endearing. Like, is he having sex with these girls now, Ellie? No? Then stop worrying about it. This is something that is always pissing me off in movies, when character A is all bitchy about character B’s slutty past. You guys weren’t together yet — you don’t get to be all jealous and judgy.
Protagonists: if your partner isn’t cheating on you, has never cheated on you, and hasn’t infected you with an STD, I don’t want to hear about it, okay?
5. Unfortunately, Ellie’s little brother, Jimmy, is also somewhat annoying.
It’s kind of Jesse Eisenberg’s trademark, isn’t it, playing uptight, nerdy, slightly shrieky protagonists? It works for me really well in Zombieland, but not quite as well here. At least he has a few good moments. I found him considerably less frustrating than Christina Ricci.
6. Joshua Jackson is always nice to see because he’s pretty, but he’s not doing anything particularly special in this role. I don’t particularly blame him, though, because his character is pretty one note, and his line deliveries at least don’t make it any worse. I feel the same way about most of the supporting cast, especially since there are more than a few roles which could easily be written out of the story without changing anything important about the plot.
7. The most egregious example of Meaningless Character is Jimmy’s love interest, Brooke (Kristina Anapau).
Brooke is one of those super nice, popular, pretty girls you really only see in movies, you know, the one who’s always talking to the nerdiest of nerds while simultaneously dating the assholiest of assholes and is forced to whine things like, “Stop that, Bo!” and “Just ignore him, Jimmy.” If I were forced to watch my boyfriend act like a dick every single day of the week, you know, I’d just dump his ass, but that would give Brooke
a functioning brain some semblance of agency, I suppose, and who wants that?
Anyway, Brooke serves absolutely no point whatsoever except to be a bullshit cause of conflict between our nerdy hero, Jimmy, and the aforementioned asshole, Bo (Milo Ventimiglia). Not that she even needs to be there for that — Bo’s a bully, and Jimmy’s a nerd. That’s really all you need. But that’s all Brooke’s around for. She’s not important to the main story. I don’t think she’s even in the big third act. She’s just some girl who occasionally pops up and smiles or pouts, depending on what the scene requires.
8. I do kind of like Judy Greer in this movie, though.
I’d like to see her land a lead role in something. I’ve only seen her in supporting parts, and she’s always really funny in them — it’d be neat to see what she could do with a more developed character. In Cursed, I couldn’t say her character’s particularly well-rounded. . . you know, she’s a shallow bitch. But she’s a fun shallow bitch. I enjoy her.
9. Say you get bit by something that looks like a werewolf. You might want to do some research, figure out what’s going on — that’s understandable. But doing research on an imaginary or mythical creature is probably harder than it sounds — you probably shouldn’t just be able to type “wolf L.A.” into a search engine and find out everything you need to know about werewolves.
Except of course when you can.
Just for the hell of it, I decided to do my own search. This is what I got when I entered “wolf L.A.” into Google.
Let’s see — I’ve got an opera performance, a wolf kill in fucking Alaska, an upcoming Scorsese movie, and an episode of NCIS.
Yep. Nothing to worry about now. I’m definitely in the know.
10. Before I get into Spoilers, here’s a pet peeve: movies that throw you a last-minute red herring villain before the Real Villain is revealed. I mean, red herring villains are fine as a concept. The problem is when they start acting in a manner that’s obviously meant to come off as sinister and eeeevil, despite the fact that their totally innocent character would have no reason to behave in such a way.
It’s one thing to look back at a character’s dialogue and realize how you totally misinterpreted everything they were saying based on what you knew about them and the situation at the time. It’s quite something else to look back at a character’s dialogue and think, What the fuck are you doing? Did you suddenly go crazy in the last five seconds? Who acts this way?
Dying to know who the Real Villain of Cursed is? Probably not, but follow below and I’ll tell you anyway.
But before I do that — let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?
Mya and Shannon Elizabeth go to a fortune teller named Zela at some carnival. The fortune teller is played by Portia de Rossi, and the most surprising thing about her is that she doesn’t die.
There’s actually no reason for Zela to die, given the motivations of the various werewolves involved. But she’s a fortune teller foretelling doom and demise — I kind of just assumed she’d bite it. (Also, wouldn’t it be kind of fun to play a carnival psychic in some cheesy ass horror movie? I think it would. Bonus points if I made it out alive too.)
Basically, Mya wants Zela to tell Shannon Elizabeth that she shouldn’t go out with this one guy she’s obsessing over. That one guy is
Peter Pacey Jake, but we don’t actually know that yet. Instead, Zela tells them that they’re both in grave danger and that they should beware the full moon. (In case you forgot you were watching a werewolf movie.) Mya and Shannon Elizabeth react to this news about as well as you’d expect and take off.
I should mention that Zela is an entirely functionless character who could be taken out of the story as easily as Brooke. Sure, she tells the girls that they’re in danger . . . but they’re already in danger, whether they’re aware of it or not. And Zela later pops up to warn Ellie that she’s turning into a werewolf . . . but Ellie’s pretty much knows that, even if she doesn’t want to believe it just yet. Once she’s talked to Ellie, Zela just . . . disappears from the story, presumably to annoy other girls with horrible predictions they won’t believe until it’s too late.
Anyway, Mya disappears from the carnival. It’s never really explained where she goes, but presumably it’s somewhere safe because she shows up later unharmed. (For the time being, anyway.) Shannon Elizabeth goes home by herself but gets into a car accident when our Unhappy Orphaned Sibling Heroes basically drive her ass off the road.
Here’s what happens: Ellie swerves to avoid hitting a werewolf and ends up slamming into S.E.’s car, knocking her into a ditch. I was actually kind of rooting for S.E. here — she’s actually kind of funny when she’s stuck inside her car — but alas, the werewolf comes back and drags her away. Actually, Jimmy’s still holding onto her, and Ellie’s still holding onto Jimmy, and in the ensuing chaos, Jimmy and Ellie get all bit and scratched up. Which is a lot better than how poor S.E. fares.
Dude. She loses the whole lower half of her body, and she’s still raising her arms and flipping over on what’s left of her stomach to try and crawl away. It is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. EVER. I had quite the giggle fit watching it.
So then we spend some time with our Unhappy Orphaned Sibling Heroes — both of whom seem to get over seeing Half-a-Woman with relative ease. Jimmy mostly seems upset that no one believes he saw a giant wolf — or any wolf, for that matter. He does his google-fu and tells his sister all about werewolves. She doesn’t believe him, nor should she. Just because Jimmy’s right doesn’t negate the fact that he drank the “Holy Shit, Werewolves Are Real! Kool-Aid” ridiculously fast.
Jimmy and Ellie are also going through their own boring romantic woes. We’ll take these two subplots one by one:
Jimmy likes Brooke. Brooke likes Jimmy but is dating Bo. Bo, meanwhile, secretly likes Jimmy. He shows this affection by roughing him up and making fun of him, which is apparently how we teach little boys to flirt in this country. Anyway, Bo semi-forces Jimmy to try out for the wrestling team so he can better kick the nerdy boy’s ass. Unfortunately for Bo, Jimmy is getting his werewolf on, which means he can wrestle the shit out of everyone on the team. It also means that he suddenly has much better hair.
Cause, apparently, becoming a werewolf means that you’re better at . . . grooming? Does this seem backwards to anyone else? Ellie, also, is supposedly much hotter than she was two days ago, although really, she looks almost the exact same. Like she’s wearing her hair down and she’s dressed in spring colors instead of black. My God, the changes! I’m a little surprised she wasn’t wearing glasses before her big transformation. It seems like a missed opportunity. We all know how much sexier women are when they take off their glasses and
fall on their faces walk gracefully down staircases where slack-jawed men are waiting to woo them.
But back to Jimmy. After Jimmy kicks his ass, Bo comes by and tells him he knows Jimmy’s secret. No, not that he’s a werewolf — Bo thinks Jimmy is gay too and kisses him, which kind of freaks Jimmy out. (Thankfully, he’s not a total dick about it.) He is remarkably stupid, though, because he immediately tries to explain that he’s NOT gay; he’s just a werewolf. Jimmy is yet another one of those ridiculous movie teenagers who runs into something supernatural and tries to convince everyone he meets that it’s real, instead of, you know, keeping his godamn mouth shut so he doesn’t end up in a looney ward. (Jimmy will later tell Jake that he’s a werewolf too and ask for his advice, because sure. That seems like the kind of thing you’d discuss with your sister’s boyfriend, especially when she’s been dating him for a whole two months.)
The scene between Bo and Jimmy sounds incredibly awkward and unfunny as I write about it — and I’ll admit I don’t really love the music that’s paired with the scene — but it does actually have one of the best intentionally comedic moments in the whole movie. As Jimmy’s unwisely trying to explain that he’s a werewolf, he says this: “No, no, no. It’s part of the curse. I’m appealing. I have an unnatural sexual allure.”
Bo’s reaction face:
“Yeah, yeah. You do, I know,” Bo says, clearly humoring Jimmy’s ridiculous ego with a very near eye-roll. LOVED it.
I don’t know that I entirely buy Ventimiglia as this big bully jock guy — cause, you know, he’s kind of skinny, and I can’t help but see whiny Peter Petrelli when I look at him — but he’s actually not terrible in this movie. Once he stops pretending to be a boring stereotype, Bo actually has a few awesomely funny reactions to all the crazy shit around him. It makes me kind of wish he was a bigger part of the story.
But enough about Bo and Jimmy. Let’s go back to Ellie and her relationship with Jake.
They have worse chemistry than Bo and Jimmy. Actually, everybody has worse chemistry than Bo and Jimmy. Brooke doesn’t have chemistry with either Bo OR Jimmy — which I don’t think you can blame on the actress, or really any of the actors involved. There are fucking turnips that have more character than Brooke, and it’s pretty hard to have chemistry with something that’s less sophisticated than rutabaga. (I feel the most sorry for Kristina Apnau, though. Sometimes, I wonder if actresses ever read these scripts and are like, “Oh, look, I’m playing a meaningless love interest. AGAIN. What do you people even need me for? Can’t you just buy a blow-up doll and put a dress on it or something?)
Anyway. At the beginning of the movie, Jake tells Ellie he needs some space. This is presumably because — spoilers — Jake’s a werewolf and he needs to figure out what to do about his feelings for her. (Apparently, his answer to that is to bite her and eventually try to kill her younger brother. Shocking how that doesn’t end up being a winning strategy.) So shortly after Ellie’s bitten, Jake’s all like, “I’ve just been scared. You’re so important to me, blah blah blah.” Of course, then Ellie meets a couple of Jake’s exes at this party and gets all pissy about it.
Which leads me to the Death of Mya the Leopard.
So, Mya is one of Jake’s many exes. She’s also either unaware that her friend is incredibly dead or doesn’t care very much because she never once mentions Shannon Elizabeth. She does hit on Jake a lot, though, even though her dead friend had a thing for him and his current girlfriend is at the party. In this movie, Mya is kind of a terrible person. I’m not sure this means she deserves to be chased around a parking garage and mauled by a werewolf, but that’s certainly what happens to her. (The werewolf also scratches his claws on the side of a car — like nails on a chalkboard — because he’s not just a monster. He’s also an asshole.)
Ellie then spends half the movie trying to go on with her life like nothing’s wrong, like she isn’t totally turning into a werewolf. And look — I get that it might take a while to fully accept the whole werewolf thing. That seems understandable. What’s less understandable is this: staying at work when you realize you can smell blood and it’s making you hungry. I mean, seriously. It doesn’t matter if you’re turning into a supernatural being or if you’re just going fucking nuts — what the hell are sick days for if not to go home when your face starts turning veiny and gross?
People in horror movies are always making their life so much harder than it needs to be.
Eventually, everyone ends up at Jake’s new club. The theme of this club somewhat escapes me because it’s like 85% horror and 15% random other movie stuff. Also, while going through a mirror maze with a drink in hand sounds like a fun idea in theory, in practicality, when you’re the one paying for the insurance . . . maybe it’s not the best plan. Especially if the lights are going to constantly fade in and out — your drunk patrons are going to throw up a lot and then break your mirrors on their flesh.
A werewolf attacks the club. Wes Craven tries to make us believe that it’s Kyle for a few minutes. Kyle’s yet another character who serves absolutely no real purpose to the main plot of the film. He’s just a red herring killer who happens to have a mad unrequited love crush on Ellie. More importantly, he’s played by Michael Rosenbaum in an uncredited performance, and I’m a little sad he doesn’t have more to do — mostly because I get a kick out of listening to him on Justice League: Unlimited, especially the episode I recently watched where he provided the voice of Deadshot. Also, I always laugh when I see him with hair, and I didn’t even watch Smallville.
Anyway, Ellie demands to see Kyle’s hand. (The hand of a werewolf is marked by the Symbol of the Beast — a pentagram, naturally. In related news, I no longer have eyes because they rolled out of my godamn head and are now spinning somewhere on the floor.) Kyle lifts one hand, but when she demands to see the other, Kyle’s sinisterly intones, “Ellie. We don’t have time for this.”
For starters, buddy, it takes less time to lift your hand than it does to say, “Ellie. We don’t have time for this.” Secondly, why is Kyle suddenly all ominous and evil when, really, he should be freaked out and shrieking? I hate last minute fake-outs if they don’t feel earned, and this one is particularly cheap.
Well, of course, Kyle bites it (bye, Kyle) and Joanie (Judy Greer) reveals herself as the Big Bad Werewolf. (Sort of.) She contracted lycanthropy from Jake after one wild night under the sheets and has apparently decided that if she can’t have Jake, no one can. Jake tries to do the whole “I can teach you how to live with this” mentor speech, but Joanie’s not particularly interested in that. She knocks Jake out and tries to kill Ellie. When the police arrive, Joanie hides. Ellie draws her out by describing her thusly: “She has a bony ass. And fat thighs. And ugly skin.”
And then . . . oh then, a beautiful thing happens.
Werewolf Joanie appears in a window and flips everyone off.
I about died AGAIN, I was laughing so hard. Cursed is at least partially a comedy, but this shot is so damn camp to the max, and I’m not sure that’s actually the tone Cursed is shooting for overall.
Anyway, the cops kill Werewolf Joanie. (And are later much perturbed when the corpse turns back into a human body.) Ellie and Jimmy think they’re in the clear, but when they go back to their ravaged home — oh yeah, their dog turned into a werewolf earlier and demolished the joint — Jake shows up and reveals that he’s the real Big Bad Wolf. Which is to say, Joanie killed Kyle and probably Mya, and Jake killed Shannon Elizabeth and infected Ellie and Jimmy. But he didn’t do it just for kicks — he did it for love, see! He’s been dating Ellie for two months, and he knows they’re meant to be together forever! Obviously, annoying little brother will have to die, but hey, who would have a problem with that?
Well, Ellie does, apparently. And Jake’s kind of a big baby about the whole thing — Ellie tries to kill him one time, and Jake’s all like, “I can’t believe you did that! We could have been great together! Now you’re dead to me. Literally.” I mean, normally, I feel a “you tried to kill me, well, I’m gonna try and kill you” response is perfectly valid, but Jake’s supposed to be one of those psychotic romantic monster types — he’s just going to give up after this one pointed rejection? I call bullshit, sir.
Regardless, Ellie and Jimmy manage to kill Jake by decapitating him. (Jake does not die from this instantly, the way you’d imagine. His decapitated head is totally all blinking and frowny before he finally dies — like, why can’t people just die normally in this movie?) Ellie and Jimmy are thus cured of their werewolf curse. And while the whole “killing your sire cure” is a pretty well known trope in werewolf mythology, I feel like the movie didn’t really cover it as well as it could have. Although maybe I just talked over that part — we were laughing pretty hard a few times.
Anyway, Bo and Brooke swing by the house with Ellie and Jimmy’s werewolf-cured dog in tow. Brooke knows nothing at all about the werewolves because she is that insignificant to the plot of this movie. Brooke and Jimmy kiss, right in front of Bo . . . so presumably Bo came out to his girlfriend off screen? I’m glad Brooke was cool with it and all, just . . . is it not a tiny bit weird, making out in front of your ex-boyfriend? I mean, even if he is gay — Brooke and Bo could have only been broken up for, what, twenty minutes? And it should also be said that up till this point, Brooke has shown no serious interest in Jimmy. I mean, we all knew where the story was going because we’ve seen movies before, but she’s been sorta-nice to him a couple of times and looked impressed when he did some wrestling mastery. That’s . . . about it. But suddenly we’re a couple?
So, it’s a happy ending all around. Brooke and Jimmy make out, Bo awkwardly watches, and Ellie . . . cleans the house. Yes, you little woman. Go clean the house. Ugh.
I still feel like there’s an idea in here somewhere for an acerbic dark comedy about werewolves in Hollywood . . . but this one is just too uneven and cheesy with far too many worthless, one-note characters and bad special effects.
Uh, don’t have sex with a werewolf?