"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Vern braves and endures Wes Craven’s CURSED!

SPOILER ALERT !!

Hey folks, Harry here to bestow upon you the glory and the greatness that is the mighty Vern. He wades through films and text like the Grim Reaper in a Corn Field…. shitting out the husks of material that dreams of better days. Now he turns his excellence at Wes Craven’s troubled latest. A film left hemorraging from the Dimension process, but with a pedigree of cool otherwise. Let’s see what Vern says…

Harry –

Don’t know if you’re sick of me yet this week but I just saw CURSED one day early, so what the fuck man you know what happens next. A review, some belligerent talkbacks, etc.

This is the new one from Wes Craven, who in my eyes at least still has some small amount of credibility. I know he tries his damndest to piss it away on executive produced projects like DRACULA 2000, WISHMASTER, WES CRAVEN’S SO-CALLED CARNIVAL OF SOULS, etc. And he’s done some bad ones all throughout his career. Like DEADLY FRIEND and DEADLY BLESSING. I forget which one is which. One of them involves a robot. And VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN. And THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2.

CursedBut every once in a while he “hits one out of the park” as they say in baseball, and in everything else too I guess, but as a reference to baseball in those cases. I didn’t used to like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT but last time I watched it it kind of won me over. It has some kind of horrible, repulsive power, despite (maybe even because of) the occasional out of place bits of comedy, in the middle of a series of long, ugly, drawn out death. He’s pretty pretentious to claim that the movie is about Vietnam, but it sort of makes sense. It’s definitely a movie ten planets away from the sanitized horror we get now.

And then there’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Not perfect, like TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, but an enjoyably relentless take on the same sort of deal. I mean, obnoxious suburban family break down their motor home in the middle of a desert missile testing site inhabited by a tribe of vicious inbred mutants, and lose whatever humanity they had fighting for their lives… how can you go wrong with that setup? I’m sure they’ll figure out how with the upcoming remake, but for the first go-round they did well.

And then there’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Initiated a whole genre of surreal/cerebral slasher movies and elaborate latex makeup effects. Still creepy today. And I liked WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE, too. An early, serious version of “postmodern horror,” before we got so god damn sick of it.

And in between those there’s a bunch of pretty good or okay ones, like PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS and SWAMP THING and SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW.

And then SCREAM. I know everybody says they hate it now but I think it was pretty popular at the time it came out, according to research I’ve done. It started a whole new rush on the previously dead slasher genre. Imitated to death until the genre ate itself and shat itself out and then stepped in itself and had to wipe itself off of its shoe. Say what you will but there must’ve been something to it, is my guess. None of the other (probaly better) horror director icons from the ’70s and ’80s had a success like that in the ’90s. Not George Romero, not John Carpenter, not anybody. So Wes Craven gets a special ribbon for longevity. So maybe there’s some hope for him still.

Although, he did go through that thing where he said that he never wanted to be a horror director, and did that one movie about teaching violin, then went back to being a lifelong horror director again. And I believe his last movie was SCREAM 3 which I can personally testify to because I do believe I saw that one and I wouldn’t mind if I hadn’t. And now he’s spent years making this werewolf movie with the same guy who wrote SCREAM and has been pathetically trying to rehash the same formula ever since.

Okay now that I think about it, if Wes Craven has any credibility it must be stashed away somewhere in a shoebox, maybe with the Christmas tree ornaments in the upstairs closet, or buried out by the oak tree to dig up on a rainy day. And this movie CURSED isn’t convincing me otherwise.

What you got here is a werewolf movie, in the year 2005, that doesn’t at any time make an argument for why we want to see a werewolf movie in the year 2005. It starts out with a cliche – two girls go to get their palms read, end up getting a warning that they will die. Okay, so don’t worry, there’s gonna be some tweak on your expectations, right? No, that would be too cliche. They get eaten by werewolves.

The main characters are Christina Ricci (the little girl from ADDAMS FAMILY, now with boobs) and her geeky brother Jesse Eisenberg (some kid). Christina is starting to date Joshua Jackson (the little boy from MIGHTY DUCKS, now with stubble) who is about to open a hip (?) horror movie themed wax museum. Jesse likes some girl too but her mean jock boyfriend picks on him and calls him a fag, and he’s too timid to stand up for himself, oh no how will he ever prove himself to her and become a man, etc.

So anyway Christina and Jesse are driving down Mullholland Drive, the road not the movie, and of course they hit “some kind of animal” which causes them to swerve and run another car off the road. Inside the car is Shannon Elizabeth, that one gal they keep putting in movies for some reason, and then she gets eaten by a werewolf offscreen, and the two main characters get bit. Who knows what will happen.

Remember that movie, they open up the box and there’s these little old people inside. What the shit man, David Lynch, you’re just makin shit up as you go along.

Okay so we know now the movie is gonna be about they slowly realize they are turning into werewolves, they have to learn to deal with it, they read books about “legends” that tell them exactly what they need to know including that silver hurts werewolves but only using the zombie method of severing the brain from the heart will kill them (see man, it’s a TOTALLY DIFFERENT SPIN ON THE WEREWOLF. You have to cut off the head. Silver only HURTS, it doesn’t KILL them. TOTALLY NEW.) Also of course they gotta find out who the werewolf is that bit them and kill him or her to end the curse.

So what do they do to mix it up and make this a new take on werewolves? My guess is they thought this was a more character driven take on the genre with realistic characters and relationships. But you would only think that if you grew up chained in a dark basement watching soap operas on a fuzzy black and white tv, eating pig slop out of a metal bowl once every two days, or if you were the creator of DAWSON’S CREEK. AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and GINGER SNAPS are character driven werewolf movies. This is not. Although the geeky brother is a mildly likeable underdog, the others don’t even really seem like characters, let alone people. Christina and Joshua have this relationship that consists entirely of discussing their relationship. “I never thought I’d meet a woman like you.” “I just don’t want to lose you.” “Things have been really weird, and I just need my space.” “Sometimes when I get close, I want to run away.” All that kind of crap. Who knows what they like about each other, since we don’t know what we like about them, or what they even do together. Do they have interests? Habits? Do they eat food or take naps? I don’t know. I think they just keep telling each other not to run away.

One thing I do know, Christina has a job working for The Craig Kilborne Show, which was an actual TV show back when this movie was being made, years ago. Now if that’s not a thrill seeing THE REAL CRAIG KILBORNE playing HIMSELF, I don’t know what is. Man, how did they ever get him. What an amazing coup. Take that, AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. You may have had a great story and characters, a perfect balance of comedy and horror, unforgettable special effects and some of the best use of pop music in a modern movie… but did you have some prick that used to be on TV, playing himself? I DON’T THINK SO, BITCH.

There’s also a short scene where, performing the duties of her job, she does a pre-interview with Scott Baio. That’s right, CHARLES in motherfucking CHARGE. The dude from ZAPPED. Playing himself. Because of postmodernism, is why, I believe. Of course, they get nothing out of this. No laughs, no weirdly uncomfortable non-laughs, nothing. At least from me, because I was too distracted wondering how we were supposed to believe

1. Scott Baio was gonna be on a talk show in 2005, even a non-existent one starring that prick Craig Kilbourne

2. They were gonna have time to show clips from his old shows

3. The “pre-interview” would consist only of Christina telling him they were gonna show some clips, and no discussion of what to talk about or anything else

Maybe this is nitpicky in a werewolf movie, but I’m sick and tired of these lazy filmatists who can’t be bothered to find out what goes on in the real world before they commit their movies to film. People who watch movies, they live in the real world. They have used a computer before, they have seen news reports before, they have watched talk shows. So they know what they are like. If you’re trying to make it real then make it real, fellas. You created that stupid TV show, right? I’m sure you know talk show people. Ask them how they do pre-interviews. Use a little elbow grease, man. We’re paying money for this shit, sadly. You better do your fucking job.

Anyway, the audience I saw it with was loud and obnoxious, commenting on everything, repeating lines, screaming at the characters, randomly howling, etc. But they were completely silent during the Scott Baio scene. No reaction at all. You know why? Because they cut this movie to a PG-13. They made it into a kid’s movie. And KIDS DON’T KNOW WHO THE FUCK SCOTT BAIO IS. So either make a kids movie with peeing and farting, or make a real horror movie. Don’t make a movie for little kids and then expect them to recognize stars from TV shows that were made before they were born. (I know. We’re getting old.)

And maybe that’s the real problem here, it’s a movie with no audience. It’s a horror movie with no gore, or scares that make you think you saw gore. It’s a werewolf movie where the two main characters are werewolves, but never fully transform into werewolves. (spoiler.) It’s a movie with all the smarts of a below average 14 year old, but with references to 20 year old TV shows. It’s a movie that tries to pass itself off as a new take on the werewolf genre, but just lifts one idea from AMERICAN WEREWOLF (waking up naked scene), one from TEEN WOLF (using werewolf powers to compete in sports and become more popular at school [seriously]), and does everything else LESS than we’ve seen before. The CGI effects are okay, not terrible or great. The transformation scene (all CGI) is only okay. When you make a werewolf movie in 2005, you gotta be wondering how you can make a transformation scene that will take advantage of modern technology to somehow stand out from the pack of AMERICAN WEREWOLF, THE HOWLING, or shit, even THRILLER. In this case, they musta just figured fuck it, why try. Let’s just do an okay morphing version of the same thing.

Hey, did you catch that? I wrote “stand out from the pack.” Because of wolves. I made one of those Gene Shalit style puns and I didn’t even mean it. I can do anything that fucker can do. I review circles around those guys. But enough about me, back to the special effects and how they are not enough to save this movie. There are also some scenes with a dude in a suit, that look like a dude in a suit. Since they happened in the horror movie themed wax museum, I was halfway expecting one of those “oh no, you killed the guy in the werewolf costume, not the real werewolf” scenes, which would’ve been worse.

Man, they even got a scene in a hall of mirrors. They probaly didn’t have enough mirrors, so it’s not even a chase scene, they just got the lights going on and off until the werewolf appears. Ooh, spooky, which one’s the real one, and which one’s the mirror? It could be a scene from Scooby Doo, but there’s no irony to it, no ENTER THE DRAGON reference, no innovative new twist on the ancient idea.

Also, they act like it’s a big surprise when the identity of the werewolf is revealed, but there’s really only two choices. Unless you count Scott Baio or Craig Kilbourne. If either one had turned wolf it might’ve been interesting, but no dice. (spoiler)

I only noticed two ideas in this movie that were original. So I’m gonna give them both away right here so you don’t have to waste your time. First, they got the homophobic jock bully who picks on Jesse all the time, and Jesse has to defeat the guy in wrestling to prove himself and stick it to the man and impress the cheerleaders. Usually that would come later on in the movie but they make it about halfway through, then after Jesse beats him, the jock comes over to his house, confesses that he actually is gay and tries to kiss him. An okay surprise, but I’m not sure Kevin Williamson (who is gay, I believe) thought things through too much. Because you see that with an audience of 2005 American teenagers, they all laugh at the faggot and gag and say “eeeeeewwwww!!!” Even here on the dangerous blue edge of the country.

Also, according to my nerd issues consultant from my Wednesday night creative writing class, this basic setup of the homophobic jock bully turned friendly gay guy was already done with a character on the “BUFFY” vampire tv show thing they had. So scratch that one.

The other one I don’t think I’ve seen before is a subplot about their pet golden retriever Zipper, who bites Jesse and gets infected. So he becomes a weredog, or a dogwolf, or something. A dog who turns into a wolf at the full moon. Or at midnight. Or at random. (They really don’t establish the werewolf rules too well in this movie, come to think of it.) Anyway, that makes for two good scenes. Both short. And that’s about it for imagination and new ideas.

How does a movie like this happen? I think we all know. This was filmmaking by committee. You didn’t have to read about it to know it. It has the rotten smell of executives all over it. They spray their territory, same way cats do. For the 2 or 3 days that there are articles about this movie, before it’s forgotten forever, every writer will say how the movie itself was “cursed.” I read an article in the “Fangoria” horror movie magazine where they explained the whole deal. They stopped filming in the middle, decided to rewrite the whole thing. At the time it starred Christina Ricci and Skeet Ulrich (remember that dude?) as her love interest. Then they decided to rewrite it so they were brother and sister. Eventually Skeet got fed up and left, so they made another character, Jesse Eisenberg’s, into the brother. Omar Epps and Corey Feldman were also in the movie at one time, but they got cut out. The article said that Freddie Prinze Jr. was added to the cast also but when I saw it today I sure didn’t notice him.

Wes Craven said it was a terrible waste of money and time and a horrible way to make a movie, but that ultimately he was happy with how it turned out and proud of the movie, as long as they don’t cut it.

So they cut it to a PG-13. The article includes a picture of a cut-off head and a gruesome mauled R&B singer with a severed arm and crossed eyes. In the movie they just fade to black. Oh well, why would anybody want to see somebody get killed by a werewolf in a movie about people getting killed by werewolves? That would be ridiculous, like putting explicit sex scenes in a porno.

I know most of the talkbackers hate me, but I bet this is one thing we can all agree on. This bullshit has to end. If somehow you are hurting for evidence that Hollywood executives don’t have the common sense of a house fly, look no further than this trend of PG-13 horror movies. I mean sure, it can work with a ghost story, but not anything else, because anything else requires killing. I never saw that PREDATORS FIGHTING ALIENS movie, but I still wonder what on God’s green earth those crackheads were thinking when they decided to make it a PG-13.

You say R-rated movies have too limited of an audience? Hmm, let me see if off the top of my head I can think of any precedent for successful R-rated movies, adored by adults and children alike.

Hmmmm. This is tough.

Wait, give me a minute.

Hmmm.

Well, all I can come up with is ALIEN, ALIENS, ALIEN 3, ALIEN RESURRECTION, PREDATOR and PREDATOR 2. Not sure if those are relevant to what you’re working on here.

Same thing with this. I’m sure they figure they got Wes Craven, they got Kevin Williamson, they want to attract a big teen audience, just like SCREAM did. With an R-rating. It was watched by teens, who were able to get in. Who are now 25, and don’t want to see a fucking PG-13 werewolf movie.

HINT TO HOLLYWOOD: PG-13 movies now are like PG movies were not long ago. PG-13 is SPIDER-MAN or PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. It means it’s okay to bring your kids.

Adults, teenagers, horror fans, and shit, even kids, want to see R-rated movies. I don’t know if maybe you’ve heard of THE TERMINATOR or THE MATRIX or maybe THE ENTIRE HORROR GENRE. But those are examples of movies that should have R-ratings that are able to still make tons and tons of cash for you to buy your cocaine with.

This is not a process that works. You can’t have somebody half finish a script, then start filming, then tell them you want something else and have them rewrite it, then when it’s finished try to cut it into something else you thought of later. How many times can you make that mistake and not figure out what’s what? I’m telling you guys, you just can’t make a good movie the way you are trying to make movies. You can’t even make a good sandwich that way. You’d end up with peanut butter and dijon mustard, with lightning bolt shaped bread that has jalapeno cheese sauce in the crust, and a little screen made out of white chocolate that you can use to look up football scores and download the new song by Ludacris. These people cannot be trusted to make decisions about art or entertainment. They should not be allowed out of their houses.

Something else about the PG-13 rating too. You’re worried about piracy killing the movie industry? I actually WISH these little bastards were staying at home pirating movies instead of watching them in public with us grownups. You ever tried to watch a horror movie with a bunch of teenage kids who need something to do and go to a movie they know nothing about because their friends are going? You sit there waiting for the movie to start being ear-raped by every bad consumer product and musical style ever invented, then you spend the whole movie gritting your teeth trying not to punch some asshole that won’t shut up through the whole god damn movie. You want to save movies, start with the moviegoing experience, so people still have a reason to go. You have only yourselves to blame. Until you straighten up I’m passing out blank DVDs to every stupid kid I see. You people should be ashamed of yourselves what you’re doing to our culture.

Anyway, no, this is not the second or third coming of Wes Craven. This one will be LESS memorable than SHOCKER. So don’t get your hopes up.

No boobs either by the way. PG-13.

sorry to bring bad news Harry.

your friend,

Vern

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/19507

View the archived Ain't-It-Cool-News Talkback
This entry was posted on Friday, February 25th, 2005 at 4:02 am and is filed under AICN, Comedy/Laffs, Horror, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

11 Responses to “Vern braves and endures Wes Craven’s CURSED!”

  1. In order to work 50 weeks a year, you’re going to have to work 30 weeks; in order to work 30 weeks,
    you’ll likely have to work 10. If I knew how
    to bake cookies, I would do that and send over a care package but Im much better at telling
    jokes so I go there and entertain, shake hands and thank the men and
    women who serve our country. He represented his homeland in four Olympics and is a three-time indoor world
    champ in the 1500 meters.

  2. “Jesse Eisenberg (some kid)” !

  3. This was before ZOMBIELAND and THE SOCIAL NETWORK. I can’t say I would ever have guessed that he’d star in those two movies after this one. It’s good to see the guy upping his game.

  4. Also I believe it’s customary for Vern to credit actors with the more obscure and / or Seagal-related stuff they’ve done (hence “MICHAEL CAINE – ON DEADLY GROUND”) but I don’t think Jesse Eisenberg was ever actually thrown through a sheet of glass by Seagal (yet).

  5. I saw him at the airport once. It was in between ADVENTURELAND and ZOMBIELAND. I was really early to pick up my mom and was just sitting around in baggage claim reading a book. I was the only one there. After a bit a guy and girl came along. She went away somewhere and he sat down a little ways down the aisle of seats from me. I looked over, recognized him, did a double take (which he saw) and then went back to reading my book. Eventually the area got super crowded, his friend came back, they did whatever (got luggage, met someone, whatever it was) and then left. No one else said anything to him or seemed to be watching him. I wonder if he can still hang out at an airport in cognito.

  6. I think World Eater is just pointing out that it’s funny that I sort of called Eisenberg a nobody in this review and not too long later he’s an Oscar nominated Superman-fighter. I like to think he was hurt by the disregard in the review and it forced him to work harder.

  7. Speaking of Eisenberg, anybody see AMERICAN ULTRA? Seems like it came and went without anyone even noticing, but I liked it. Good violence, some laughs, really good chemistry in the surprisingly plausible central romance. Plus Walton Goggins gets to play a giggling psycho with a few unexpected twists. Max Landis might be a textbook douche but so far I’ve more or less enjoyed everything he’s gotten produced. He’ll probably never top DEER WOMAN, but that’s hardly something to be ashamed of. If he could just shut up and write and leave the raconteuring to his pop, I might be able to call myself a modest fan without a list of caveats longer than the list of side effects at the end of an allergy meds commercial.

  8. Didn’t really like AMERICAN ULTRA. I felt it had way too many undercooked subplots with no payoffs and since the irreverence isn’t charming or frequent enough it all felt kinda flat in the end. I did like Eisenberg in it though and he does have good chemistry with what’s her face. As we saw in ADVENTURELAND of course. Maybe she should play Lena Luthor?

    Problem with Landis’ writing is that he tries to go too complex and never follows through. He needs to learn to scale back more and stop trying to seem too random for no reason. Quirkiness isn’t quirky if it’s being forced.

    In writing you either go all in or just don’t even bother putting the tip in. I do agree with his views about the Marvel movies though. I think as someone from my generation he’s familiar with a more diverse and colorful Marvel universe than even modern readers may not know if.

  9. Hey Vern, did you ever review the WISHMASTER series? I know you’ve referenced them a bunch of times, but I can’t find them in the archives. I’d say “I wish you’d review them”, but I’m afraid the Djinn might appear and kill me in a way barely related to what I wanted, like shoving a computer monitor into my eye socket or something. He’s a real jerk about interpreting wishes, that guy.

  10. I only saw the first one. On the big screen, too. They’re probly more enjoyable now, and there’s a box set coming out. Good idea.

  11. Prior warning: The first two are silly but very enjoyable. The last two are bland, cheap, shot-back-to-back-in-Canada DTV and are very difficult to sit through.

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