Cursed (2005)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, Shannon Elizabeth
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes

With a lot of fanfare, "Cursed" is the latest movie by horror director legend Wes Craven – his first film in 5 years – and once again written by Kevin Williamson, who penned the director’s successful "Scream" franchise. Although I’ve enjoyed some of Craven’s work a lot in the past, especially his Freddy Krueger films as well as movies such as "The Serpent and the Rainbow," I’ve never been much of a fan of Kevin Williamson, who creates one shallow horror film after another, mostly without real soul but a lot of teenage moronics. With that in mind, I was a bit trepid about "Cursed" but the Wes Craven admirer in me won over and I checked out "Cursed," their collaborative entry into the werewolf genre.

After a car accident a young woman, Ellie (Christina Ricci) and her brother Jake (Joshua Jackson) are attacked by a werewolf – on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles out of all places. Without realizing it a first they begin to change and before long they realize that the beast that attacked them may in fact have been a werewolf and in order to prevent turning into werewolves themselves they will have to kill the wolf that infected them. Yes, you have heard and seen all this before, I’m sure, and it doesn’t sound all too interesting after having seen this sort of story for a thousand times, and exactly this is the movie’s biggest problem – its utter lack of imagination.

While "Cursed" is not en entirely bad film it’s not a good one either by any stretch of imagination, the movie is completely uninspired and unimaginative once again confirming to me that Kevin Williamson is just not a good screenwriter. "Cursed" contains every cliché in the book without offering anything new. Whether you look at the classic "The Wolf Man," "The Howling" or John Landis’ "An American Werewolf in London" all the elements that made those films successful are simply copied here without any own identity. The story is so predictable that it hurts – which pretty much describes my viewing experience of the film as a whole. I found it pretty painful to sit through some of the ridiculous scenes the film offers up as it was so blatantly obvious to me what’s going to happen next – because I had seen it countless times in other werewolf films before. To top it off the special effects are pretty much awful, I have to say. The computer-generated sequences feel completely synthetic and completely lack the organic qualities that set a good CGI shot apart from a bad one. In "Cursed" you can spot and tell every single one of these shots and pinpoint exactly where in the frame the CGI object starts and where it ends. The level of quality probably wouldn’t even have lived up to viewer expectations 5 years ago, but they certainly don’t hold up today.

There are some good things about the movie, however, and I do not want to miss pointing them out as well. The movie is atmospherically shot with great lighting and cinematography. Craven and cinematographer Robert McLachlan always know where to place the camera for maximum effect and how to light the scene. First person through-the-eyes-of-the-beast camera is also not as overused as in some other werewolf films, and the film’s pacing is balanced, though a bit slow overall. The acting is good and Christina Ricci certainly plays a big part in selling the movie, as does Portia de Rossi as the gypsy fortuneteller – a small but historically crucial part.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment is presenting "Cursed" in its original 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio on this DVD in a transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. The transfer holds very good definition and brings out oven the most subtle elements in the picture. Color reproduction is vivid and strong without rendering images excessively however and without oversaturation. Black levels in the transfer are superb, giving the image ominous, deep shadows that help drive the suspense of the picture without losing detail or definition. Skin tones are natural-looking throughout and no edge-enhancement mars the presentation. The compression has been handled equally impressive and is devoid of artifacts.

A <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track accompanies the movie and it is very aggressive, as you would expect. Filled with guttural noises and flesh-ripping sound effects, the sound field is wide and the track bombards the viewer from all directions, making constant use of the discrete sound channels. Dialogues are well integrated and are never drowned out by the effects or the music, making for a good presentation. The music is nicely balanced and mixed to support the film and never to distract from the events you witness on the screen. It is here also that Wes Craven puts his experience to work by not exposing viewers to an excessively modern sound track that would have been detrimental to the film.

This DVD version of "Cursed" also comes with a number of extras. Four scenes of the movie have an optional <$commentary,commentary track> to offer by special effects makeup supervisor Greg Nicotero and actor Derek Mears, who plays the werewolf in the film. Now, given the fairly poor quality of the effects the <$commentary,commentary track> is a bit of a nuisance in my book, as the two glow over effects that were already outdated by the time John Landis showed us the landmark werewolf transformation in "An American Werewolf in London" some 20 years ago.

A series of featurettes also come with the DVD. "Behind The Fangs" is a promo featurette about the making of the movie. It offers up the obligatory cast and crew interview snippets as well as a few shots form behind the scenes but offers little of real value, other than attempting to gush over and sell the movie.

"The Cursed Effects" is a look a the special effects and Greg Nicotero explains how prosthetic effects and computer generated imagery were combined to create the effects in the movie.

In "Creature Editing 101" Patrick Lussier gives viewers a crash course in monster editing, explaining very quickly how different editing styles can create the illusion of continuity in a shot, how effects can be created, allowing the brain to add its own interpretation of what it thinks it saw, and so forth.

"Becoming A Werewolf" is a look at how the werewolf was conceived from the idea to its final incarnation on the film.

The thing that struck me most about the supplements on this release is the complete lack of Wes Craven’s participation. Not one of the features Craven in any way at all, which for fans is a huge disappointment, of course.

"Cursed" is a mixed bag. It’s a film that offers thrills and guts aplenty. At the same time it is flawed and unimaginative merely recycling material from other werewolf films since "The Wolf Man" in 1941. As such the film really only caters to the hard-core werewolf fans who need to see every genre film there is, or to those who have never had contact with any of the previous incarnations.