Blu-ray Review: Cursed (Collector’s Edition)

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Horror wasn’t a big genre in the early ’90s thanks to all those sequels that were being cranked out in the ’80s starring Freddy, Chucky, Michael and Jason. The crowd kept shrinking as the numbers went up on the marquee until the studios gave up on them. In the winter of 1996, things changed when Kevin Williamson’s script about kids playing with the conventions of a horror movie was directed by Wes Craven, who had scared audiences with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Last House on the Left. Scream became a major box office success. The duo immediately went back to work and had Scream 2 ready for the following Christmas season. It was also a serious success story as it hacked apart the box office with jokes about sequels. They even made a Scream 3 although Williamson chose to be a producer and not write the script. Dimension Films (the genre arm of Miramax) was eager to reunite the duo. The story goes that Kevin Williamson wrote the Cursed script and sold it to Dimension. The story was about a serial killer who discovers he kills because he’s really a werewolf. The studio had two other writers rewrite the script so that it felt more like a Kevin Williamson movie. Then the studio killed Wes Craven’s next film a few weeks before production in order to make him direct Cursed. They wanted to “reunite the band” even if Williamson’s original script wasn’t quite part of the deal. They doubled Craven’s salary to keep him happy at the abrupt change.

The film was not even close to smooth sailing. They brought on Rick Baker which excited people since he revolutionized the werewolf genre with his special effects for An American Werewolf in London. They announced an all star cast including Scream’s Skeet Ulrich. The production came to an abrupt halt because the studio wasn’t enjoying the ending. During this break, the entire film was reworked with new scenes and new cast. Skeet Ulrich was gone and replaced by Joshua Jackson from Dawson’s Creek. They even let go of Rick Baker and brought on a new effects crew that went with CGI werewolf action. The most unbelievable thing the studio did was decide after Craven finished the film that they no longer wanted an R rating. They needed the violence toned down for a PG-13 for a chance to get more people in the theater.

If there’s anything that upsets a horror fan, it’s the knowledge that a film they were excited to see on opening weekend has had the violence and blood scrubbed away. As much as the studio imagined they’d have another Scream success, Cursed was cursed with empty seats. Wes Craven’s original version of the film with the first cast is missing and has no ending so there’s no going back to that. The unrated cut exists. Which is great since Cursed: Collector’s Edition has both the PG-13 and Unrated Cuts.

Ellie Harper (Black Snake Moans‘ Christina Ricci) is an associate producer on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. One night she picks up her brother Jimmy (The Social Network‘s Jesse Eisenberg) for a drive home. The long and winding road goes bad and they end up wrecking with another car. When they try to rescue the other driver, both Ellie and Jimmy find themselves clawed by a vicious animal. When the cops arrive, they think it’s just a cougar or bear. They siblings go home and find themselves changing as their wounds heal. Jimmy finds himself more than a wimp at his high school. He’s able to destroy the star creep on the wrestling team. Ellie is more assertive at her gig and not afraid of Craig Kilborn. They both have odd marks on their hands that might be a pentagram. Are the two kids now werewolves? Will anyone notice a werewolf in Los Angeles where wild people with crazy haircuts that howl at the moon are commonplace?

Cursed is a much more effective film with the Unrated version. Who wants to see a werewolf film holds back on the gore effects? It is a strange film knowing that Wes Craven’s original vision for the movie was scrapped by the studio as he reshot most of it. It’s not even Kevin Williamson’s version of the film since his script was tossed out the window. I enjoyed the film because of the replacement cast. Ricci is effective as she juggles work and lycanthropic desires. You also get Judy Greer (Archer), Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us), Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie), Mya, Lance Bass and Bowling For Soup. Nick Offerman plays a cop. Plus out of nowhere you get Scott Baio in what appears to be his final theatrical appearance. He hasn’t been in a theatrical release in 17 years.

Perhaps the strangest thought is what happened to Craig Kilborn? He comes off as a king of late night in the movie. He was ready to book Scott Baio to boost the ratings. By the time Cursed finally made it to theaters in 2005, Kilborn had left his hosting gig at The Late Late Show. This movie was already dripping in nostalgia on opening weekend. You can almost imagine a couple in the scant audience debating if Kilborn was a real talkshow host.

Cursed is an entertaining shaggy werewolf story. Wes Craven gives us a good amounts of claws and fangs gore with an all star cast getting hairy or bloodied. The studio hyped that the film would change werewolf movies on the same level that Scream did for horror. The version that made it to the theaters didn’t. The Unrated Cut boosts up the experience of why you should be more careful when driving in Los Angeles. Cursed doesn’t deserve to be cursed so harshly.

The Video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The image quality is sharp and clean. The 1080p transfer keeps things hairy. Audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround so the were wolves snarl around your room. There’s also a 2.0 DTS-HD MA stereo if you just want them at the front of your HDTV. The movie is subtitled in English.

Select Scenes with Commentary by Greg Nicotero is on Car Wreck, Parking Garage, Tinsel and Final Fight on the unrated cut. Nicotero and the actor/ stuntman who played the werewolf talk about what is physical and CGI effects. Nicotero has gone on to do a lot with the Walking Dead series. But he remembers quite a bit from the big effect/stunt scenes.

A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing (13:57) has Derek Mears go into the bonkers of what happened on the shoot since he was there for the full production. They never replaced him as the Werewolf. Rick Baker enjoyed working with him and brought him on Men In Black and Cursed. He remembers his first meeting with Wes Craven that led to landing the part.

A Movie That Lives Up To Its Title (17:57) lets editor Patrick Lussier discuss the insanity of the film. He and West Craven met up making Nightmare Cafe TV series that lasted 6 episodes. He says Craven was reluctant to do it because the script to Cursed reminded him of Vampire in Brooklyn, but the money was too good and he needed to put his crew to work since Pulse had fallen through for him. He was hired to work for 6 weeks as the editor and the gig lasted 19 months. He remembers them stopping the production to redo the ending. It turned out they wanted to just rework the entire film and recast quite a few parts. He says at the end, only 12 minutes of the original film was in the theatrical version. He did second unit on the reshoot. He discusses the frustration of the studio going for PG-13 and hiring another unit to redo shots. It’s the Heaven’s Gate of werewolf films.

Behind The Fangs: The Making Of Cursed (7:33) is the original behind the scenes featurette that pushes Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven are back again, but with werewolves and Scott Baio.

The Cursed Effects (6:45) is the vintage bonus feature about what they did to make the werewolf happen. Greg Nicotero looks so young as he talks about his physical effects would transition into the CGI.

Creature Editing 101 (5:32) has a younger Patrick Lussier talk about his role in editing in a vintage promo. He doesn’t talk about the issues. He does talk about the two cuts of the film since the unrated came out on home video.

Becoming A Werewolf (7:58) has actor Jesse Eisenberg and Greg Nicotero go into what it takes to be a werewolf. Jesse hosted and documentary for the DVD release. This is rather fun and Jesse Eisenberg should do more documentaries.

Theatrical Trailer (1:42) is the old Miramax logo. A wreck leads to something coming out of the woods.

Scream Factory presents Cursed: Collector’s Edition. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Kevin Williamson. Starring Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Joshua Jackson, Judy Greer, Shannon Elizabeth, Mýa, Nick Offerman, Scott Baio, Craig Kilborn and Bowling for Soup. Ratings: PG-13 & Unrated. Running Time: 97 minutes & 99 minutes. Release Date: May 10, 2022.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.