It’s Been 15 Years Since We’ve Been ‘Cursed’ (2005) – Retro Review

There’s an elite tier of films out there. There’s the poor, unfortunate lot of potential blockbusters that got off track and eventually derailed in a fiery explosion of overspending, inflated egos, studio meddling, and about a thousand different interpretations of what the original vision happened to be. It inevitably is going to happen, and, to be honest, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more. The common threads are always a stellar initial concept, a high profile director and/or actor, an early warning sign of an unexplained delay in production, and then a fresh new direction.

That fresh new direction is usually the death rattle to whatever hopes were had in the beginning. The finished product is an unpalatable and unsatisfying entree after everyone has been gnawing on the hype. It’s really weird when it happens to a horror film, mainly because the widespread hype and inflated cost isn’t usually there. It starts with a core target audience and a small budget, all to make sure the film stays profitable. However, sometimes lightning in a bottle can work. Such was the hand dealt to Wes Craven’s Cursed. It goes without saying that Cursed could’ve been great. I think what damns it the most in the eyes of anyone that scrutinizes it is the waste of potential.

Cursed began as a beautiful marriage of contemporary and classic elements. Horror master Wes Craven and practical effects maestro Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) signed on, while Kevin Williamson penned the screenplay, and the cast included film icons, Tiger Beat alums, and up and comers who we would be much more familiar with later. Some notable cast that didn’t make the final cut include: Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise), Robert Forster (Alligator 1980), Corey Feldman (Friday the 13th franchise, Gremlins 1984), Mandy Moore (47 Meters Down 2017 – read our review here This is Us TV series), Skeet Ulrich (Scream 1996, Riverdale TV series), Illeana Douglas (Cape Fear 1991, To Die For 1995), and Omar Epps (Trick 2019 – read our review here, Dracula 2000 2000).

The cast that made the Cursed cut was pretty good, and almost all of them still work in high profile projects today. I think Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow 1999, The Addams Family franchise) was bioengineered to be in horror films. Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland franchise) doesn’t get misidentified so Michael Cera much anymore, and Milo Ventimiglia almost destroyed the slow cooker crock pot industry with his portrayal of the dedicated but doomed dad on This Is Us. I can’t leave out Judy Greer, who plays Laurie’s daughter the newest Halloween incarnations. Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek TV series) is the WB connection as the pensive and tortured love interest, but he mainly walks around looking really sad. All were and are capable actors, and none were terrible in their performances.

Things looked promising for Cursed in early production as the trifecta of talent with Craven, Williamson, and Baker spun horror gold. It was even heralded as “re-inventing the werewolf genre” by Bob Weinstein. After delays in production, a significant amount of cast members were lost due to scheduling conflicts. Baker’s practical effects were then replaced by equally prolific KNB’s handiwork, but very little of it would make it to the final version.

The end result were FX that were a rung or two above the ilk that An American Werewolf in Paris had 7 years earlier, and about 5 rungs below The Wolfman. It wasn’t all CGI, however, the great Derek Mears (Friday the 13th 2009 – read our retro review here) donned a werewolf suit a time or two.

The plan was to make Cursed a hard R. That alone would’ve changed the tone entirely. “Make Horror R Again” began with the dissatisfaction of audiences feeling like their genre was a pre-mixed, bland formula intended for general consumption instead of a dangerous and edgy cocktail. Horror is for anybody that wants or needs it, but it isn’t for everyone. Watering it down and making it PG-13 isn’t going make the reluctant movie goer changed their tastes. The core audience that relishes it are the ones that suffer. Unfortunately for Cursed, it landed hard in the PG-13 zone.

Watch Cursed now!

Making a good werewolf film has to be one of the most difficult things ever. The great ones always employ practical effects, and those films I can count on one hand. I know that sound like a purist approach, but I hope they prove me wrong someday. If you have fond memories of seeing Cursed, own it and be proud. Every film has someone who loves it, and nobody has final say on if the final result is good or bad anyway. Even infamy can sometimes be better than obscurity.

About Kevin Scott

Parents who were not film savvy and completely unprepared for choosing child appropriate viewing material were the catalyst that fueled my lifelong love affair with horror, exploitation, blaxploitation, low budget action, and pretty much anything that had to be turned off when my grandparents visited. I turned out okay for the most part, so how bad could all these films actually be?

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