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Cursed (Unrated Version)

The description on the back of Buena Vista's sleeve for the "unrated" DVD of Cursed (2002) states breathlessly that this unrated version is "undeniably more fun than the original release!" The veracity of this rather unimpressive claim notwithstanding (more fun than the version which garnered a 4.6 user rating on IMDb.com and a 13% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes?), the real question is whether or not this version of Cursed is better than the one initially filmed back in 2002. A brief history of the troubled project: After a lengthy hiatus, reportedly 90% of Cursed was re-shot, entirely eliminating roles played by Skeet Ulrich, Corey Feldman, and Mandy Moore… so far, so good. But allegedly the result still was unsatisfactory to Dimension Films head Bob Weinstein, who took it away from director Wes Craven in order to edit it down to a PG-13 rating for its theatrical release. It's all a rather ignominious saga for the horror-meister responsible for genre classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Hills Have Eyes. However, Cursed is more in the mold of Craven's Scream films (also written by Kevin Williamson, who penned this effort), which leaven fright with humor and intend to startle more than scare. At least that's how it ended up, this story of a brother (Jesse Eisenberg) and sister (Christina Ricci) who encounter a werewolf in the hills above Los Angeles and get all bestial from it. Ricci's character, Elle, is a show booker for "The Late, Late Show" and the fact that ex-host Craig Kilborn cameos as himself indicates how belated the eventual release of Cursed was. In another instance of desperate meta-casting, Scott Baio pops up as a guest on the show. Elle asks her what he's been up to recently, and it's hard to resist the urge to shout "Playing myself in crappy horror movies! Happy?!" Filling the immense void left by Ulrich's absence, Joshua Jackson plays Elle's boyfriend Jake, who's on the verge of opening his movie-monster-themed restaurant, Tinsel. Musician-actress Mya is one of Jake's old flames, while Shannon Elizabeth tackles the Drew Barrymore role of the recognizable star who gets offed in the first act. Fans of "Arrested Development" will be simultaneously pleased and horrified that two talented actresses from the show, Portia de Rossi and Jane Greer (who plays psychotic ex-secretary Kitty Sanchez), show up here as, respectively, a psychic gypsy and a bitchy publicist. The expansive cast provides a plethora of red herrings and werewolf fodder as the film drags its way toward a hall-of-mirrors showdown that plays like The Lady of Shanghai meets "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mystery Hour." The most effective moments in Cursed come during the monster's attacks — even in relative dreck like this, Craven still knows how to put together a good, gory shock scene. It's just a shame that much of it was neutered by the movie's PG-13 rating and by the generally lackluster feel of the whole enterprise, even in this unrated edition. Buena Vista presents Cursed: Unrated Version on DVD in a solid anamorphic transfer (2.40:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio that makes good use of surround effects during the wolf attacks. The limited supplements make no mention of the movie's patchwork past and are strictly of the publicity-oriented variety. Four featurettes bear self-explanatory titles: "Behind the Fangs: The Making of Cursed;" "The Cursed Effects; "Creature Editing 101," and "Becoming a Werewolf." Four fight scenes are re-presented with commentary by makeup supervisor Greg Nicotero and actor Derek Mears, who wears the werewolf suit in perhaps the film's most convincing performance. Keep-case.
—Marc Mohan

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