Wes Craven's 'Cursed' 15 Years Later: What Went Wrong, and Why this Werewolf Flick Deserves Your Love
Development hell. It's something we are all familiar with when it comes to the entertainment industry. Sometimes it can lead to films/tv being outright cancelled, postponed or in the case of 2005’s Cursed, it could be a total upheaval of the intended product...
...Looking back fifteen years later (the film celebrated it's anniversary on February 25th), it's hard to look at the finished project and not wonder “What if?” or “What went wrong?”
After the success of the Scream franchise, it was Dimension Films intention or rather hope that director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson could work their magic once again on the werewolf genre and bring it into the modern age.
With a $38 million budget, production originally began in 2003 with the original premise being about three strangers who must navigate through Los Angeles after a werewolf attack.
The film originally starred Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg and Skeet Ulrich in the three lead roles with appearances from Craven alum Heather Lagenkamp, Scott Foley and others. Rick Baker was even in charge of the overall design of the werewolves.
While the film itself seemed to have everything going for it and Dimension Films appeared to be happy with the cuts they were seeing, it wasn't until the film was 90% completed that the call came down and production came to a sort of stand still.
Reshoots and rewrites took place which ultimately led to scheduling conflicts and creative differences with some of the cast leading to some characters/actors being cut and lead Skeet Ulrich being replaced by Joshua Jackson. Another unfortunate side effect of these reshoots was that Baker left the project and his fantastic designs were replaced with CGI creations. Baker would later tweet an image of the fully transformed wolf in 2014 in a since deleted tweet.
Multiple endings were shot and the film itself was hacked to death on the cutting room floor as the promised R Rated werewolf flick was now a watered down PG-13 film, although they would later release an uncut edition on home video, which begs the question of why the cuts and watering down were needed in the first place other than trying to appeal to the PG-13 audience (as we have seen with other previous films under the Dimension and Weinstein affiliates).
The film premiered in 2005 and would be considered a box office bomb earning just $29 million.
Christina Ricci described the film and the behind the scenes issues best in a 2018 interview for AV Club in which she says, “It was one of those studio movies that just got horribly screwed up.”
However, despite the words of confusion and frustration from the cast and crew, the film still resonates with me as a viewer.
When you look at the werewolf genre around this time in the 2000s, Cursed, Dog Soldiers, and Ginger Snaps were all taking the genre and trying to do what Cursed was hailed to do...reinvent the genre.
Each film strives to tell a human story through the guise of the werewolf curse. While Ginger Snaps deals with approaching womanhood and Dog Soldiers deals with isolation and survival, Cursed deals with family and the legacy of the werewolf with a more meta approach similar to what we saw in the Scream films.
What stands out and sort of saves the film the most is the cast. The dynamic between Eisenberg and Ricci as both Myers siblings is what carries the film as you watch both deal with their newfound lycanthropy differently, all the while featuring the hustle and bustle of LA playing the background. Eisenberg plays the role of Jimmy with the same awkward nerdy type vibes we would see years later in Zombieland. Ricci as always delivers a solid performance with moments where you can see her character Ellie dealing with the denial of what is happening while also struggling to understand with the information gathered by Eisenberg’s Jimmy.
Judy Greer steals every scene as Joanie with that familiar wit and comedic timing we have come to grow familiar with as the years have gone on and her career has grown. Her heel turn towards the end was an absolute joy to watch and only makes me wish original cuts of the film existed to see the full scope of her villainous role.
Joshua Jackson plays the brooding love interest very well. This was after Dawson’s Creek ended so it was fun to see him play a character completely different than what we had seen. Had the ending twist been written a little bit better perhaps he could’ve made a convincing villain.
Cursed is a fun film. While the gore is toned down and the CGI elements are now dated by 2020 standards, the suspense and whodunit elements of the story are quite entertaining. It is just a shame that we will probably never see the original cut that Craven shot. It’s a guilty pleasure film, and in the end, that’s what horror is all about.
By Kalani Landgraf