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CURSED
Unrated Version

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, Jesse Eisenberg, Judy Greer, Scott Baio, Shannon Elizabeth, Mya
Director:  Wes Craven
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio:  Dimension
Features:  See Review
Length:  99 Minutes
Release Date:  June 21, 2005

"You're a monster!"

"Join the club."

Film ***

In the 90s, writer Kevin Williamson paired up with director Wes Craven to revitalize horror for the decade.  In fact, Scream became a defining moment for the genre, combining genuine scares with a fun sense of self-awareness and parody.

Now, in the double-aughts, they've reunited to breathe life into an old standard:  the werewolf movie.  And they succeeded.  Cursed is easily the best wolf movie since An American Werewolf in London, and much like that John Landis picture was a quintessential step forward in its time, so is Cursed for its.

Thanks to CGI, we're no longer subjected to long crafted-by-hand makeup shots showing humans in transformation.  American Werewolf pulled it off startlingly well, but every movie since was just an attempt to recreate its magic.  In Cursed, we have transformations that are even more shocking and look more real than ever.  If you ever wondered why there was so much screaming when a person turns into a wolf, these effects give you some idea of the physical sensation.

Ellie (Ricci) and Jimmy (Eisenberg) are two young people trying to make their way alone after the passing of their parents...she's working for Craig Kilborn, and he's still in school.  One night, when their car hits something, they end up witnessing a rather horrific event, as a motorist (Elizabeth) ends up...shall we say...cut down to size by a monstrous looking creature.

Both Ellie and Jimmy end up with scratches, which is never good in a werewolf picture.  While Ellie tries to dismiss concerns, Jimmy ends up reading on the mythology of werewolves, and piecing together what's happening to them.  Why are their senses getting sharper?  Why does everyone around them find them more attractive?  What's with those marks on their hands?

As usual, the main plot point is the discovery of who the original wolf was, so that Ellie and Jimmy can kill it and undo the curse.  That's about all you can expect from this type of movie, and frankly, I didn't find it hard to figure out whodunit ahead of time.  No, the real pleasure in a werewolf movie is the suspense, the gore, and the horror of transformation, and Cursed delivers all three in clever and satisfying ways.

Williamson, as always, exhibits a gift for making you chuckle while shrinking in your seat at the same time.  It makes for a fun movie going experience when it works, and it definitely does here.  At the same time, Craven is the master of the genre, and knows how to use his camerawork, editing and his actors' reactions to create moments of almost unbearable suspense before delivering the goods.  He doesn't make the mistake a lot of amateurs make by thinking the gore is the horror instead of a compliment to it.  He's definitely earned his reputation as the go-to man for horror.

The cast is appealing, particularly the always-beautiful Ricci as a sad but strong figure trying to keep her world together in the face of absolute chaos.  And Eisenberg brings a sense of dignity and realism to what might have been just another school nerd kind of role.  They work well together, and when the time comes for them to turn the tables and start kicking some butt of their own, you'll be cheering them on.

Cursed may not revitalize horror for the new millennium the way Williamson and Craven did for the old one with Scream, but in an age were horror seems to be getting more and more by the numbers and stale, it's a fun, exciting and scary breath of fresh air.  Basically, two top talents doing what they do best...never a bad thing.

NOTE:  I never got to see this movie theatrically, but this unrated DVD offers a little more in the blood and guts department...it wasn't too hard to figure out what might have been trimmed for a safe R rating.

Video ****

VERY impressive...this anamorphic transfer is vibrant, colorful and superbly detailed from start to finish.  Consider how much of the storyline takes place at night and in dark places and you'll really be impressed:  the dark scenes never get hazy or compressed-looking, and the level of detail never seems to waver.  One of the year's best.

Audio ****

Sound is crucial in horror, and you can't ask for better than this 5.1 mix.  From the loud rock music to the quietest sequences where even the sound of someone's breath can be crucial, the audio delivers with potent dynamic range, expressive and creative uses of the surround channels to keep you looking over your shoulders, and kick from the subwoofer to add impact.  Excellent work.

Features **1/2

The disc contains four short featurettes on the making of the movie, the effects, the transformation, and editing, but view none of them BEFORE you watch the movie; they contain spoilers.  There are also four scenes with commentary by makeup supervisor Greg Nicotero and wolf actor Derek Mears.

Summary:

You can teach an old wolf new tricks...Cursed is the freshest, most fun and most effective entry into the werewolf genre in a long time.  Director Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson are still a team that knows how to deliver the most scares and laughs for your entertainment dollar.

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