Hair of the dog

“Cursed” does little credit to Wes Craven’s reputation

Claire Joseph

It’s never a good thing when a fortune teller warns that a “beast” is after you.

“Beware of the moon, it feeds in the moonlight,” Zela, a psychic, tells two young carnival-goers.

This is how “Cursed” begins and, like the fortune teller, viewers can see into the future and anticipate things don’t look promising for the film.

“Cursed,” directed by Wes Craven, whose other credits include “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream,” focuses on two main characters, siblings Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg).

After a car accident sends them into the woods, Ellie and Jimmy find themselves scratched by a werewolf. Unable to explain the “large wolflike animal” they encountered, the two go home and try to forget the whole thing.

But, of course, we’re only 20 minutes into the movie, and the trouble is just beginning for Ellie and Jimmy. When they realize they are beginning to turn into werewolves themselves, they find they also have the ability to transform other people and animals into werewolves.

“I’ve infected Zipper, he’s gone werewolf,” Jimmy says when he realizes his dog has been altered.

Craven tries to create a sense of the creepy by hooking Ellie up with Jake (Joshua Jackson), the owner of a nightclub that features horror-film memorabilia.

But seeing “Frankenstein” and “Boogeyman” collectibles on screen isn’t frightening, especially when the collector is a harmless “Dawson’s Creek” pretty-boy like Jackson.

One big problem with this faux-horror film is the audience is introduced to the golden retriever-like werewolf much too early.

As proven by M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs,” horror films are scarier when viewers don’t know what the thing they’re afraid of looks like. When they find out, the perceived reality is usually less terrifying than what they imagined.

Oddly, Craven has Ellie working at the “Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn” (which was still on television at the time of filming), and, yes, Kilborn is in the movie playing himself. He doesn’t say or do anything funny, though. But he does degrade Ellie and bump actor Scott Baio. Yep, the “Charles in Charge” star has a cameo too.

These cameos aren’t funny. They’re just weird enough to make viewers question why they spent $8.50 on admission.