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Break out the silver! Quint's been CURSED a whole 3 months early!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here, writing in from Los Angeles. I was wandering around the 3rd Street Promenade a couple days ago when I was approached by a dude with a clipboard and some colored pieces of paper. To those untrained in the art of espionage, they might think they were about to get hit up for money for orphaned children in some far off land, but I saw the potential in such an approach. So, I feigned stupidity, another art which I somehow grasped quickly, and watched as I was handed two passes for a test screening of Wes Craven's new flick, CURSED, a werewolf flick scripted by Kevin Williamson. There will be spoilers below, but nothing that'll give away the best parts or the end of the flick.

Before the film, Wes Craven himself came up and welcomed us to the screening and told us that he's really happy with the film and it's mostly done, but warned us that some of the effects in the last 7 or 8 minutes was only about 1/3rd finished. The lights went down (and then came up again after about 30 seconds of the opening song, a shitty new version of Little Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, due to a technical problem that was very quickly fixed) and the film rolled.

Now I was psyched to see the film, despite knowing that they shut down and ultimately reshot most of the movie a while back, because I knew that Rick Baker designed the practical effects werewolf. As a mega-huge-gonzo fan of Baker's werewolf work in John Landis' piece of genius AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, I couldn't wait to see him return to his hairy glory days.

The film opens at, what I believe was the Santa Monica Pier, which was a bit surreal as they screened the film on the 3rd Street Promenade, a stone's throw from the beach, where Shannon Elizabeth and Mya, fresh from listening to the new Red Riding Hood song being performed, get their palms read. The fortune teller can smell death on them and tries to warn them of "the beast" and even utters the classic "Beware the moon" line from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. We leave Shannon on the beach, watching the full moon rise above the water and are introduced to the main players in the film.

Christina Ricci plays Ellie, a lower level behind the scenes employee on the Craig Kilborn Show and she's having trouble getting her boyfriend of many months, Josh Jackson, to commit. He's busy organizing a huge horror themed party at a trendy nightclub somewhere in LA and is always being pulled in many different directions, although there is a hint of menace to him at his first introduction, but I won't tell you if that's just a red herring or something more. What's really cool is for the horror movie geeks to see the various horror icons set up in this set. Frankenstein, Wolf-Man and even Freddy Krueger stand amongst the cast as awesome looking wax sculptures. There's also a replica cane from THE WOLF-MAN, which I loved seeing in the film, but that could just be me with my favorite Universal Classic Monster Movie being THE WOLF-MAN.

We also meet Ellie's little brother, Jimmy, played by Jesse Eisenberg (ROGER DODGER). I think Jesse will steal the film for most of you out there, in much the same way that Randy stole the first SCREAM film. Jimmy isn't as nod-nod wink-wink as Randy was, but he knows his shit and is a smart-ass in all the best ways. Plus he's got a boner for the hottie with a heart at school (Kristina Anapau, who is indeed damn hot), so he's very easy to relate to. Ricci picks him up from an encounter with his amore on Hollywood Blvd. and is driving back home through the Hollywood Hills when she hits an animal, then runs Shannon Elizabeth off the road.

The werewolf goodness starts here and is pretty impressive, especially the (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) totally graphic and badass killing of Shannon Elizabeth. Although a tad CG heavy, I love what they do with her pulling her separated upper torso along with shaky arms before she collapses. And, of course, both Eisenberg and Ricci are bitten/scratched. Hey, I put three SPOILERS, in all caps before that last bit... and it's only the beginning of the film, but I understand. From this point out I'd be wary of spoilers, though I will try to keep the surprise of the film intact.

You got the set-up now. Everything I mentioned above happens in the first 10-15 minutes. We're introduced to a few more characters... the asshole overly-homophobic jock, Bo, Michael Rosenbaum's completely unimportant character (though that's not a knock against Rosenbaum, who I really like as a person and an actor , especially his work in POOLHALL JUNKIES... he just didn't really have any purpose in the film) and Scott Baio as... Scott Baio.

My first impressions of the film as it began was very positive. The first three quarters of the film is pretty damn solid, with very little typical Kevin Williamson moments, the exceptions being mostly the high schooler dialogue. That's not to put Williamson down. He has a niche and I respect that, but I was pleasantly surprised to not see the same old same old this time out. The scares were good, the characters were interesting enough to warrant giving your attention and the promise of what's to come is exciting. The fact that all of your main characters are slowly becoming werewolves is pretty neat and you expect a big free-for-all finale or at least a race to find and kill the curse at its source before they turn, neither of which really happen.

So, my biggest problem lies with the last act. The showstopper happens at the big party with all the wax monsters and has some great elements, but is a little confounding because after the big reveal of who the original werewolf was, that person keeps their human form for most of the fight and doesn't do much more than throw our main characters around a lot before deciding to finally transform back into a werewolf. Of course they CG the transformation, which is very out of place considering that the majority of the werewolf goodness previously in the film was done with practical effects. The transformation they have now is more reminiscent of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS instead of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON if that tells you anything. But that's not it. The big, big problem is that when that finale has its conclusion the filmmakers or studio or whoever decided to have a second ending that's just boring. Boring because once again they have a big finish to a werewolf movie without any wolf action, just some quick CG fangs popping out, then going back and eyes changing color and claws forming and unforming. I thought they might not have finished wolf-out effects, but when you see it unfold you can tell that the characters aren't meant to be wolfing out. It also feels more typical Williamson by needing to include yet ANOTHER twist. Although it does make sense, it kind of throws the end of the film into a spiral.

What's really upsetting about this is that every bit that I loved in the film... the first mauling, the parking garage sequence (which is the best scene in the whole movie and the only scene to really show off how awesome Rick Baker's werewolf work was) all seem like teasers to whet the appetite for something really creepy, gory and cool to end the film, but then you get an ending full of people monologuing (to steal a term for THE INCREDIBLES) and some truly shitty CG work (but I won't dwell on that because I don't know how much of it is finished or not... it looked mostly unfinished, especially the only transformation scene we get, which looked like the worst bits in VAN HELSING).

If the movie I saw is the final version, it'll stand as a film that has many elements that I really dig and some that I love, but I wouldn't feel the need to buy it on DVD. However, if Craven hits it one more time and tries to come up with a better ending before the February '05 release he could have a really slick sick flick on his hands, one that I could 100% get behind. He's got a great setting for the final act, a crowded venue filled with a hall of mirrors, horror icons set in wax, each in their own habitat (Frankenstein in a lab, Wolf-Man in the woods, etc), but doesn't ever really take full advantage of it. I really do think that the ending of the film should really be here, instead of the "we're all OK... no, we're not!!!" bit at the house. And for god's sakes... more werewolves, please!

I don't know what else to say besides that I think this is a flick that most horror fans can get behind if they change up some of the goofier shit in the last act, especially since so much of the first two acts were taken seriously. The gore is inventive and very in your face, the werewolf is badass (even if the bipedal werewolf kinda looks weird to me... gimme my David werewolf on all fours!) and the scares are really well done. The humor in this part comes from the characters and their interactions, not from a bird-flipping werewolf (I shit you not).

I know they've already spent so much on the movie for its largely reported reshoots, but if Miramax was smart it'd try to make the ending a bit more in tone with the rest of the film and for the love o' god keep it rated R. Without the gore, some of which is cartoony, some of which is not, this film would lose a whole lot of appeal. I'm not asking for all the humor to go, but there's a fine line you have to walk and if you slip down the wrong side you end up making a joke of the project. The cast is solid, the Rick Baker work is great, the CG effects could use some help, but with 3 months to go I'm sure it's being fine-tuned. In short, if Miramax wants a movie that'll be only moderately successful in the short term, by all means put this film out as is. If they want something to really get the fans worked up, all they have to do is balance out the tone a bit.

At least in the opinion of one lowly geek. Anyway, that about it wraps it up for me. I'm pretty exhausted and have much to do in the days ahead, but I'll tell you folks about all that fun stuff next week. Until then, this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu.

-Quint







Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 6, 2004, 5:27 a.m. CST

    First!

    by Boba Feet

    It's a celebration, bitches. And werewolves rock out with their cock out.

  • Nov. 6, 2004, 6:27 a.m. CST

    Not to sound like the typical negative TBer, but...this movie so

    by SmarkJobber

    For once I'd like to see Kevin Williamson write a horror movie with adult characters who don't spout smartass. I'll get my adolescent lyncathrope fix watching "Teen Wolf" and its Justin Bateman-studded sequel, thank you.

  • Nov. 6, 2004, 7:53 a.m. CST

    And by "Justin" Bateman I mean Jason. Anyway...

    by SmarkJobber

    ...speaking of former 80s sitcom stars, I don't think Scott Baio will ever have second career wind, and it especially won't come from his work in "Cursed" (like Neil Patrick stealing the whole "Kumar" movie playing himself). Baio needs a juicy role in a late night infomercial, or at least try to lobby for "Zapped 3: Get Zappier."

  • Nov. 6, 2004, 10:39 a.m. CST

    Hmmm

    by Purgatori

    I've been screwed by Rob Zombie's House of a 1000 Corpses once (although Devil's Rejects looks promising if he gets it right this time), but movies held up like this one was over and over again tend to bite me on the ass. And not in a good way. But I love Wes Craven and I love Christina Ricci. So I'll give this a shot and pray it doesn't become the fodder most horror movies right now have become and I figure the damn thing out in the first ten min's of film. Although I knew what was going o happen in Dog Soliders just from the commercial and was still entertained and blown away by how good it was. Now if Craven could just convince Johnny Depp to do a vampire movie before he turns 50 and loses those boyish, ever young looks we'll be in business.

  • Nov. 6, 2004, 12:45 p.m. CST

    Scott Baio is the original werewolf isnt he? I knew it. I knew S

    by IndustryKiller

    they all called me crazy but look at what happened. He killed Shannon Elizabeth.

  • Nov. 6, 2004, 8:51 p.m. CST

    Come on, Craven

    by AndyCappJr

    Let's hope Wes nails this one, time will tell. As an added bonus, Harry gets another dose of his beloved werewolves. P.S. Let the CG bashing begin.

  • Nov. 7, 2004, 12:39 a.m. CST

    Kristina Anapau you asshat. hire a proof reader.

    by Schmiggy JK

  • Nov. 7, 2004, 12:40 a.m. CST

    rofl... i swear to god when i first read this it said kristin...

    by Schmiggy JK

  • Nov. 7, 2004, 8:46 a.m. CST

    Beg Rick Baker to come back and finish what he started.

    by reni

    Otherwise everything you've done to try and fix Cursed seems pretty pointless. Keep yer werewolves bullshit free Miramax. p.s Great review Quint.

  • Nov. 8, 2004, 1:03 a.m. CST

    Kevin Williamson masterminded "Dawson's Creek"

    by Hercules

    He also created the WB's "Glory Days" and wrote "Scream," "Scream 2." "The Faculty," and "Teaching Mrs. Tingle." He may be the shittiest writer alive. But I'm certain "Cursed" will be fantastic!

  • what can I say? something about people still being alive when they're missing body parts freaks me out.

  • Nov. 8, 2004, 5:05 a.m. CST

    Bipedal

    by Mr.FTW

    Bring on the biped werewolves. Thats what was actually good about the Van Helsing werewolves. Werewolves are half man half beast. I hate movies that are supposed to be werewolf movies but in reallity the people just turn in to big dogs. I wan to see a monster not a stunt double from Call of the Wild.

  • Nov. 8, 2004, 10:19 a.m. CST

    I agree ... bipedal

    by ZaphodBB

    I totally agree that Werewolves look better bipedal ... it gives them a look of intelligence ... cunning ... I think all would agree that a smart enemy is much scarier than a stupid one ... and werewolves on all fours look like big, dumb ol' Cujos. When the hell are they gonna make "Werewolf by night" into a kick-ass, live-action movie? I long to see Jack Russell's tragic story on the big screen...

  • Nov. 8, 2004, 11:14 a.m. CST

    SPOILER question

    by harosa

    This is a fun spoiler question, is the were-dog still in the movie?

  • Nov. 8, 2004, 3:07 p.m. CST

    Nothing can save this abortion of a movie.

    by Mr. Profit

    Wes is a punk now, the last good film he made was New Nightmare and that's a stretch. Kevin is a shill for Kaplan's SAT prep program. All his movies full of high school vocabulary words and stupid teens who know everything. Remember when people in horror movies weren't so self aware?

  • Nov. 8, 2004, 5:04 p.m. CST

    Eh

    by Halloween68

    Kevin Williamson's a hack. I went to college with him. He was a hack then, he's a hack now. He doesn't have a niche. He's a damned lucky bastard. He was at the right place at the right time. That's all. He was a theatre major. Scream was his first attempt at writing a full script. Craven made the thing more than it was/is. That and the casting. Williamson's been living off his connections which led to Dawson's Creek ever since. I mean come on...anyone ever read Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer? Not exactly The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby.

  • Nov. 9, 2004, 12:42 a.m. CST

    I love werewolf movies!

    by Anlashok

    Except for most of them, because they suck inordinate amounts of ass!! My favorite werewolf movie, (and from the looks of things will remain so until I die) is "The Howling" You can keep your campy "I don't know whether to laugh or scream" crapfest to yourself. Take your "running dog" werewolves and stuff them in your ass. Oh, and men with furry sideburns are about as scary as the spooks on scooby doo. Hey Hollywood, here's a few suggestions as to what not to insert into your werewolf movie.1 too many people, unless these people are werewolves, get them out of there. There is strength in numbers and the last thing you want your protagonist to be in a horror movie is overpowering.2 High tech weaponry, hell, high tech anything, immediately drains the flick of horror, (see Jason in space for details)There's nothing less scary than werewolves who text message.3 Werewolves and cities, I say stay away from this not so much that it couldn't work but because I have a script in the works and I don't want you fuckers stepping on my toes! 4 Marsupials, come on, what the fuck were you thinking?! The last "decent" werewolf flick I've witnessed was "Dog Soldiers" The worst is what I fear this project will resemble, that cinematic giant known as "Dark Wolf" Although I'm sure I've upset a few FvsJ fans since they seem to be of the same quality filmaking, oh well.

  • Nov. 9, 2004, 1:40 p.m. CST

    OK, here's problem number A:

    by Hud

    too much "story," if you can consider the tribulations of these paper cutouts "story" in any meaningful sense, and not enough werewolves fucking people up. Must we be subject to that tiresome first reel? This things sounds like it would be immediately more disturbing and watchable if the werewolves just start killing people from minute one and never let up. No explanations; no "backstory," no "B story" and no "arcs." Just Fade In and complete fucking madness. Two or three scenes to catch our breath, and then sheer horror. I don't want to know why stuff happens; just what happens next.

  • Nov. 9, 2004, 6:40 p.m. CST

    Well, Christina doens't have to be nude

    by Lambsilencer

    As long as she wears miniskirts or shorts throughout the whole movie... she just needs to show off her legs, I don't need more... :-)

  • Dec. 12, 2004, 6:20 a.m. CST

    AWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

    by chien_sale

    As a horror geek I think it looks awesome!