The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
From reading up on “Cursed” through the IMDB trivia section, the story behind the scenes of this film might be more interesting than the film itself. I say this as a huge fan of the film. I think it’s a really, really good Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson collaboration. Is it as good as their work on the “Scream” franchise? No, but there is a reason so many fans of the duo have discovered and enjoyed “Cursed” since its initial release in 2005. Their usual brand of humor, self-awareness and gruesome kills are featured at times, in this film. This Shout Factory Blu-ray features both the theatrical cut (PG-13) and the unrated cut. I highly recommend you check out the unrated cut. I’ve seen both cuts, and the unrated cut, even though it’s only two minutes longer, features more gore.
“Cursed” stars Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg as Ellie and Jimmy, a sister and brother duo living together after the unexplained death of their parents. Jimmy is seen as a dork and feels forgotten about by his sister while Ellie is working on the “Craig Kilborn Show” as a producer. Oddly enough, Kilborn was no longer on the air when the film was released because it was delayed for two and a half years. Jimmy is in high school and being constantly picked on by Bo (Milo Ventimiglia) who resorts to homophobic insults every chance he gets. Bo’s girlfriend, Brooke (Kristina Anapau), does not approve of his behavior, and she also takes a liking to Jimmy’s dog named Zipper.
Ellie is romantically involved with a smooth-talking ladies’ man named Jake (Joshua Jackson) who is about to open up a horror-themed nightclub. His past causes Ellie to wonder if he really cares about her or if she’s just another notch on his belt. One night, Jimmy and Ellie have a car accident where Jimmy swears he saw a werewolf or a monster. Ellie doesn’t believe him, and a police officer played by Nick Offerman is even more skeptical. Before long, they can’t start to ignore the strange and weird things happening to their bodies and the feelings they are experiencing.
Let’s talk about the cast as I felt like, every time I turned around, I saw an actor or actress I was familiar with on screen. Shannon Elizabeth is in the film, and she’s game for a grueling and demanding part in the film. There is also the always reliable Judy Greer as a fast-talking publicist who finds herself butting heads with Ellie throughout. There is also a cameo from Scott Baio as himself, and it’s just about perfect. Portia de Rossi plays a psychic, and she makes the most out of her limited screen time. Singer and songwriter Mya has a fun turn as the best friend of the Shannon Elizabeth character. As far as the standouts from this amazing cast, the brother/sister relationship between Eisenberg and Ricci is the heart of the film, and it feels very real. They felt like brother and sister. Joshua Jackson also has just the right amount of mysterious charm to him, and Greer is a spitfire as always.
Any problems with “Cursed” are not the fault of Craven or Williamson. They were at the mercy of the studio. It felt like they were both looking to make a witty werewolf film to turn the genre on its head just like they did with “Scream” while the studio and producers were looking to make a PG-13 film. It’s why we are left with a film that shows hints of greatness and other moments which were aimed to be studio-friendly. There are too many jump scares for example. At times, the film plays it too safe. Other times, in the unrated cut, they really go for the gore.
However, when it was all said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of “Cursed.” The script is witty, sharp and timely for the early 2000’s. When I see its flaws, like the jump scares and poor special effects, I know it is the studio and not Craven, and that’s even though it’s his film. When I see the material that works, such as the strong acting, the self-awareness and the gore in the unrated version, I see what could have been if the studio let Craven make the film he wanted to and stayed out of things. It’s clear the studio didn’t know how to market “Cursed” as it had a budget of $75 million, and it only made $29.6 million.
While this might sound like a negative review at times, I think “Cursed” is a cult classic which will gain more appreciation now that it’s released on this two-disc set from the fine folks over at Scream Factory. I think it will get a second life. There is a lot of good in this film, and it allowed me, as the viewer, to overlook the studio’s interference. I really wish audiences could have seen the original werewolf design by the legendary Rick Baker (“An American Werewolf in London”) in the film. Even though his name is in the credits, his work is not featured in it. That’s a major mistake on the studio’s part. This is a really good movie which could have been great. I still like it a whole lot.
Do yourself a favor and read all of the drama surrounding this film. It’s a miracle it was released at all. A special shout-out to Scream Factory for giving “Cursed” its day in court. It’s an enjoyable ride, warts and all.
* * * ½ out of * * * *
Blu-Ray Info: “Cursed” is released on a two-disc Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set from Scream Factory. It comes on a 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.40:1) transfer with an audio track of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and with subtitles in English. The theatrical cut has a running time of 97 minutes while the unrated cut is 99 minutes. The unrated cut is the one to watch.
NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative
NEW A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing – an interview with actor Derek Mears (13:57) – Derek Mears talks about his start in Hollywood as a stuntman and his background and training. He talks about his start on “Wild Wild West” and how he met Rick Baker on the film. He also discusses how it can be hard in Hollywood to be seen as an actor and a stuntman as they want one or the other. Baker was how he got involved in “Cursed” as the werewolf. He details some of the issues when shooting the film, but he was mostly thankful for the opportunity to work with Craven, Baker and Williamson. I really enjoyed his enthusiasm and love of horror films.
NEW A Movie That Lives Up to Its Title – an interview with editor Patrick Lussier (17:57) – He talks about his early work with Craven going back to 1991 on TV. The fact they offered Craven a ton of money to make this film, and it would have put a lot of crew members out of work is ultimately the reason why he chose to direct it. Craven had his concerns about the tone of the film and if it would be similar to “Vampire in Brooklyn” and the problems he had on that one. Lussier was only supposed to be on “Cursed” for six weeks, and in total, he worked 19 months on the film. WOW! He goes into tremendous detail on the issues that plagued the film from start to finish. In his words, “It was something to have survived.” There were issues with Dimension Films changing the ending, test scores influencing them, and cast and crew members coming and going. He ends it with a great quote on Dimension Films, “They don’t pay you for what you do. They pay you for what they do to you.”
Behind the Fangs: The Making of “Cursed” (07:33): This is a previously released special feature which includes interviews with the cast and crew.
The “Cursed” Effects (06:45): This is another previously released special feature which includes interviews with Derek Mears, Greg Nicotero, and Judy Greer. It’s kind of odd to see everyone speaking so positively about the film and its effects, considering all of the drama surrounding what went on.
Becoming a Werewolf (07:58): Jesse Eisenberg hosts this special feature which is clearly tongue in cheek. Eisenberg and Nicotero have some fun together in playing this straight for laughs. Craven pops up here as well to join in on the fun. It’s also written and directed by Eisenberg, and his trademark humor is evident throughout.
Creature Editing 101 (05:32): Now this special feature is really interesting to watch considering what he said in his new interview that is included on this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray. He’s much more politically correct here.
Select Scenes with Audio Commentary by Special Effects Artist Greg Nicotero and Actor Derek Mears: The following scenes are featured: Car Wreck, Parking Garage, Tinsel and Final Fight.
Should You Buy It?
As a horror fan, this is a film definitely worth adding to your collection. “Cursed” is a film a lot of people have talked about online over the past few years. They have been clamoring to see the Craven cut of the film, but it’s not clear who owns the footage, and also the original ending was never shot. It has achieved cult status thanks to the fans. I’ve even revisited it a few times over the past year, and I’ve grown to enjoy it more and more with each viewing. I also can’t help but wonder, “What if?” when I watch the film. I wonder what could have been if the studio had let Craven do his thing and stayed out of his way. I also wish Scream Factory would have released this film on 4K as they have been releasing a lot of their titles in this high-definition format. It looks pretty good on Blu-ray, but I imagine a full 4K release would have been really, really fun to look at, especially during the gorier scenes. If you love Scream Factory and horror films with an interesting backstory, this is a must-own. I think it’s only going to grow in popularity after this Blu-ray release.
There are two new special features here which are really good, but it would have been quite a treat to have a few modern interviews with some of the main cast members. I imagine they would have some fascinating and bizarre stories to tell. You can pre-order the film now on the Shout/Scream Factory website as it will be released on May 10th.