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Break out the silver! Quint's been CURSED a whole 3 months early!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here, writing in from Los Angeles. I was wandering around the 3rd Street Promenade a couple days ago when I was approached by a dude with a clipboard and some colored pieces of paper. To those untrained in the art of espionage, they might think they were about to get hit up for money for orphaned children in some far off land, but I saw the potential in such an approach. So, I feigned stupidity, another art which I somehow grasped quickly, and watched as I was handed two passes for a test screening of Wes Craven's new flick, CURSED, a werewolf flick scripted by Kevin Williamson. There will be spoilers below, but nothing that'll give away the best parts or the end of the flick.

Before the film, Wes Craven himself came up and welcomed us to the screening and told us that he's really happy with the film and it's mostly done, but warned us that some of the effects in the last 7 or 8 minutes was only about 1/3rd finished. The lights went down (and then came up again after about 30 seconds of the opening song, a shitty new version of Little Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, due to a technical problem that was very quickly fixed) and the film rolled.

Now I was psyched to see the film, despite knowing that they shut down and ultimately reshot most of the movie a while back, because I knew that Rick Baker designed the practical effects werewolf. As a mega-huge-gonzo fan of Baker's werewolf work in John Landis' piece of genius AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, I couldn't wait to see him return to his hairy glory days.

The film opens at, what I believe was the Santa Monica Pier, which was a bit surreal as they screened the film on the 3rd Street Promenade, a stone's throw from the beach, where Shannon Elizabeth and Mya, fresh from listening to the new Red Riding Hood song being performed, get their palms read. The fortune teller can smell death on them and tries to warn them of "the beast" and even utters the classic "Beware the moon" line from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. We leave Shannon on the beach, watching the full moon rise above the water and are introduced to the main players in the film.

Christina Ricci plays Ellie, a lower level behind the scenes employee on the Craig Kilborn Show and she's having trouble getting her boyfriend of many months, Josh Jackson, to commit. He's busy organizing a huge horror themed party at a trendy nightclub somewhere in LA and is always being pulled in many different directions, although there is a hint of menace to him at his first introduction, but I won't tell you if that's just a red herring or something more. What's really cool is for the horror movie geeks to see the various horror icons set up in this set. Frankenstein, Wolf-Man and even Freddy Krueger stand amongst the cast as awesome looking wax sculptures. There's also a replica cane from THE WOLF-MAN, which I loved seeing in the film, but that could just be me with my favorite Universal Classic Monster Movie being THE WOLF-MAN.

We also meet Ellie's little brother, Jimmy, played by Jesse Eisenberg (ROGER DODGER). I think Jesse will steal the film for most of you out there, in much the same way that Randy stole the first SCREAM film. Jimmy isn't as nod-nod wink-wink as Randy was, but he knows his shit and is a smart-ass in all the best ways. Plus he's got a boner for the hottie with a heart at school (Kristina Anapau, who is indeed damn hot), so he's very easy to relate to. Ricci picks him up from an encounter with his amore on Hollywood Blvd. and is driving back home through the Hollywood Hills when she hits an animal, then runs Shannon Elizabeth off the road.

The werewolf goodness starts here and is pretty impressive, especially the (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) totally graphic and badass killing of Shannon Elizabeth. Although a tad CG heavy, I love what they do with her pulling her separated upper torso along with shaky arms before she collapses. And, of course, both Eisenberg and Ricci are bitten/scratched. Hey, I put three SPOILERS, in all caps before that last bit... and it's only the beginning of the film, but I understand. From this point out I'd be wary of spoilers, though I will try to keep the surprise of the film intact.

You got the set-up now. Everything I mentioned above happens in the first 10-15 minutes. We're introduced to a few more characters... the asshole overly-homophobic jock, Bo, Michael Rosenbaum's completely unimportant character (though that's not a knock against Rosenbaum, who I really like as a person and an actor , especially his work in POOLHALL JUNKIES... he just didn't really have any purpose in the film) and Scott Baio as... Scott Baio.

My first impressions of the film as it began was very positive. The first three quarters of the film is pretty damn solid, with very little typical Kevin Williamson moments, the exceptions being mostly the high schooler dialogue. That's not to put Williamson down. He has a niche and I respect that, but I was pleasantly surprised to not see the same old same old this time out. The scares were good, the characters were interesting enough to warrant giving your attention and the promise of what's to come is exciting. The fact that all of your main characters are slowly becoming werewolves is pretty neat and you expect a big free-for-all finale or at least a race to find and kill the curse at its source before they turn, neither of which really happen.

So, my biggest problem lies with the last act. The showstopper happens at the big party with all the wax monsters and has some great elements, but is a little confounding because after the big reveal of who the original werewolf was, that person keeps their human form for most of the fight and doesn't do much more than throw our main characters around a lot before deciding to finally transform back into a werewolf. Of course they CG the transformation, which is very out of place considering that the majority of the werewolf goodness previously in the film was done with practical effects. The transformation they have now is more reminiscent of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS instead of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON if that tells you anything. But that's not it. The big, big problem is that when that finale has its conclusion the filmmakers or studio or whoever decided to have a second ending that's just boring. Boring because once again they have a big finish to a werewolf movie without any wolf action, just some quick CG fangs popping out, then going back and eyes changing color and claws forming and unforming. I thought they might not have finished wolf-out effects, but when you see it unfold you can tell that the characters aren't meant to be wolfing out. It also feels more typical Williamson by needing to include yet ANOTHER twist. Although it does make sense, it kind of throws the end of the film into a spiral.

What's really upsetting about this is that every bit that I loved in the film... the first mauling, the parking garage sequence (which is the best scene in the whole movie and the only scene to really show off how awesome Rick Baker's werewolf work was) all seem like teasers to whet the appetite for something really creepy, gory and cool to end the film, but then you get an ending full of people monologuing (to steal a term for THE INCREDIBLES) and some truly shitty CG work (but I won't dwell on that because I don't know how much of it is finished or not... it looked mostly unfinished, especially the only transformation scene we get, which looked like the worst bits in VAN HELSING).

If the movie I saw is the final version, it'll stand as a film that has many elements that I really dig and some that I love, but I wouldn't feel the need to buy it on DVD. However, if Craven hits it one more time and tries to come up with a better ending before the February '05 release he could have a really slick sick flick on his hands, one that I could 100% get behind. He's got a great setting for the final act, a crowded venue filled with a hall of mirrors, horror icons set in wax, each in their own habitat (Frankenstein in a lab, Wolf-Man in the woods, etc), but doesn't ever really take full advantage of it. I really do think that the ending of the film should really be here, instead of the "we're all OK... no, we're not!!!" bit at the house. And for god's sakes... more werewolves, please!

I don't know what else to say besides that I think this is a flick that most horror fans can get behind if they change up some of the goofier shit in the last act, especially since so much of the first two acts were taken seriously. The gore is inventive and very in your face, the werewolf is badass (even if the bipedal werewolf kinda looks weird to me... gimme my David werewolf on all fours!) and the scares are really well done. The humor in this part comes from the characters and their interactions, not from a bird-flipping werewolf (I shit you not).

I know they've already spent so much on the movie for its largely reported reshoots, but if Miramax was smart it'd try to make the ending a bit more in tone with the rest of the film and for the love o' god keep it rated R. Without the gore, some of which is cartoony, some of which is not, this film would lose a whole lot of appeal. I'm not asking for all the humor to go, but there's a fine line you have to walk and if you slip down the wrong side you end up making a joke of the project. The cast is solid, the Rick Baker work is great, the CG effects could use some help, but with 3 months to go I'm sure it's being fine-tuned. In short, if Miramax wants a movie that'll be only moderately successful in the short term, by all means put this film out as is. If they want something to really get the fans worked up, all they have to do is balance out the tone a bit.

At least in the opinion of one lowly geek. Anyway, that about it wraps it up for me. I'm pretty exhausted and have much to do in the days ahead, but I'll tell you folks about all that fun stuff next week. Until then, this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu.


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