(2005) * 1/2 Pg-13
105 min. Dimension Films. Director: Wes Craven. Cast: Joshua Jackson, Shannon Elizabeth, Portia de Rossi, Jesse Eisenberg, Christina Ricci.

Like Scream remade with butter knives, Cursed is a sadly bland effort from up-and-down horror-meister Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street). Paired again with his Scream-writer Kevin Williamson, Craven takes a lazily superficial tack on the old werewolf yarn, with results that bring to mind Teen Wolf, only less funny and more annoying. Though much worse films are routinely thrown to the critical wolves, touchy Dimension Films strategically refused to screen Cursed for the press. In all likelihood, chasing after run-of-the-mill lousy movies only makes the movies seem even worse.

Williamson's snark-lite horror story seems like something he scribbled on a bar napkin. A young woman named Ellie (Christina Ricci) and her high-schooler brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg of Roger Dodger) get into a car crash on Mullholland Drive. A werewolf pounces on the crash victims, devouring one and breaking the siblings' skin. According to werewolf lore, the bitten develop heightened senses and strength, lose control during the full moon, and can't abide the touch of silver. The five points of a pentagram appear on their palms—a dead giveaway. Oh, and to off 'em, you have to separate the head from the heart which, ironically, might be the only way to enjoy Cursed.

Part of the deal here is to figure out the identity of the alpha werewolf. Suspects include Ellie's commitment-phobic boyfriend (Joshua Jackson of Williamson's Dawson's Creek TV series), Jimmy's homophobic classmate (Milo Ventimiglia of Gilmore Girls), a fortune teller (Portia de Rossi of Arrested Development), and a high-strung publicist (Judy Greer), who makes Ellie's life hell at her job on the late late-night talk show The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. That all of the actors come off badly is par for this movie's course, which includes cameos by Kilborn, Scott Baio, and Lance Bass.

Williamson doesn't give the siblings anything constructive to do with their powers, and his lack of creative invention extends to his once-trademark dialogue. The best he can manage here are toss offs like, "I was bitten by a werewolf. If that's not good for a sick day—." Craven works to the script's level, desperately trumping up eerie wind and moonlight and trying to make his nervous-looking young cast look good. Cursed probably won't be the nail in the coffin for Craven, but Williamson is looking pretty pale.

Craven manages some well-timed jolts and bursts of horror violence, but the PG-13 rating blunts the one thing the movie might have had going for it. The story is slow to develop, and even the inside references to horror heritage are dispritingly boring (Jackson's character curates a horror display at a Planet Hollywood type of place called Tinsel) or inane (Bowling for Soup covering "Lil' Red Riding Hood"). Though the film boasts the makeup effects of six-time Oscar-winner Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London), but the werewolves are almost always "realized" with cut-rate CGI. Chalk up Cursed's thorough lameness to a production hell that included a shutdown to rewrite and recast (cutting-room-floor escapees: Corey Feldman, Skeet Ulrich, Omar Epps, and Mandy Moore).

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