"Cursed," the new Wes Craven werewolf movie, is everything you might expect; even less. The film was scheduled for release last October, but then was entirely re-written, and then almost entirely re-shot. Then, after some light test-screening in an R-rated version, the picture was hacked down to a PG-13. "Cursed" indeed.
The story is a wispy thing. Christina Ricci plays Ellie, a Los Angeles publicist whose heaviest account appears to be "The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn." (This is an awkward period touch — Kilborn left that show last August.) Although she's in her mid-20s, and appears to feel she's involved in a serious relationship with a guy named Jake (ultra-mild-mannered Joshua Jackson, from "Dawson's Creek"), she lives in a house with her teenage brother, Jimmy (the talented Jesse Eisenberg, from "Roger Dodger" and "The Village"). This sibling-roomie situation feels a little weird. Maybe their cohabitation has been necessitated by the death of their parents, an event which is sketchily alluded to; but that subplot, if it ever existed, now resides in a pile of deleted digits in some studio edit bay.
Okay, we're spending way too much time on this. Riding with Jimmy along Mulholland Drive one night, Ellie's car hits a big furry creature of some sort. (As someone says shortly thereafter, "It wasn't a dog, was it?") Ellie and Jimmy both get bitten. People start dying, mainly people with large breasts. Ellie's handsome-wanker boyfriend starts acting oddly. So do Ellie and Jimmy. As a doomed girl says around this point, "Omigod!" Did I mention there's also a gypsy fortuneteller? ("Beware the moon!")
That'll do. "Cursed" is a cheat on the most basic level. It winks witlessly at the traditional rules of werewolf movies. (Silver doesn't kill them anymore — you have to "separate their heads from their hearts.") And the filmmakers can't even keep their horror genres straight. When something sinks its fangs into someone's neck, and gets intensely turned on by the sight of blood, I say it's a vampire, not a werewolf. And when it starts crawling across the ceiling, I say, "What the hell ... ?"
The picture is also — a considerable flaw in a horror movie, I think — not horrifying. Whatever good, gory sequences it may once have contained have been discretely hustled off-camera, where their presence is indicated by occasional sounds of slurping and munching. The picture is now a procession of silly startlements: a sudden loud sound here (it's only a cuckoo clock!), a mysterious hand creeping in there (it's only me, Sis!). This isn't scary, it's irritating. And then it's tiresome.
"Cursed" is being celebrated (by the studio that made it, no one else) as the long-awaited professional reunion of director Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who last worked together on the mini-influential "Scream" movies back in the latter '90s. They shouldn't have bothered. And they definitely shouldn't bother again. This is a picture that no one should have to buy tickets to see. Wait for the DVD. And then don't buy that, either.