The year was 2005. A generation of horror fans, who had grown up with Wes Craven’s iconic movies such as A Nightmare on Elm Streetand Scream, were about to be treated to his latest work: Cursed. A movie that was initially envisioned as a modern-day werewolf epic, and ended up being, well, somewhat different.
Cursedwas written and developed by screenwriter and frequent Wes Craven collaborator, Kevin Williamson. The film was supposed to “reinvent the werewolf genre,” with Dimension films eager to create a horror movie with strong female characters, a generous helping of action, and some genuine scares. The tale they came up with focused on two siblings, Ellie and Jimmy, played by genre mainstays Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg, who are attacked by a mysterious creature in the Hollywood hills. After being bitten, they begin to experience strange changes (like your everyday average bloodlust) and must find out the truth behind the creature’s identity in order to save themselves. Or at least.. that’s how the film ended up.
Cursed was greenlit for production with an initial budget of $35 million, a pretty big budget for a horror film, even today. But, as soon as the cameras started rolling, things began to go wrong. *insert pun regarding the ironic title of the film* There were issues with the budget, and the script was constantly being tweaked and rewritten, leading to filming delays and several reshoots.
With only 6 days left in the original filming schedule, Dimension films decided to put production on hold to do a major overhaul of the project after being unhappy with the film’s original ending and the initial state of werewolf effects. Cursed was rewound back to the development stage with major rewrites considered, and at one point, an existing rewrite only intended to use about 12 minutes of the original footage. Keeping in mind when production was halted there was only one major sequence left to shoot, and they had a 90-minute film ‘in the can’.
The film completed extensive reshoots, and despite positive test screenings of the film, Dimension films were still dissatisfied, requesting yet another ending be shot- which lasted an additional 20 days. This meant that Cursed ended up going significantly over budget, with the final number creeping up to $75 million, and some say as high as $90 million.
In an interview with Bloody Disgusting in 2019, actor Jesse Eisenberg said of the production, “The crazy part is that after we filmed the whole second version of the film, we had to go back for a third re-shoot which lasted about 20 days. That’s like the length of an independent movie. And then we had to go back a fourth time for like 10 days and they made shirts that said Cursed 4: Back for More.”
The movie’s failure was a huge disappointment for the director, but his ambition and creativity to break the curse of Cursed (2005) should not be overlooked.
To make matters worse, once the movie was finally released in February of 2005, it was met with a wave of negative reviews. Critics attacked the film’s confused plot and lack of scares, and it ended up with a dismal 15% on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie was a commercial flop, with a worldwide gross of just $29 million, a fraction of its budget.
In the years since its release, Cursed has slowly become something of a cult classic. Many horror fans have re-evaluated the movie and have come to appreciate its unique blend of horror, comedy, and action. The film has achieved something of a second life online, with its memorable dialogue, scenes, and characters being discussed and celebrated on social media platforms.
What’s more, it has been praised for its surprisingly progressive themes and characters, which was a rarity for the genre at the time. It is now seen as a fascinating misfire from a director who always pushed the boundaries of the genre, and who had the courage to take a risk with a unique and ambitious project.
So, while Cursedis far from a classic, it is an important footnote in the career of Wes Craven. The movie’s failure was a huge disappointment for the director, but his ambition and creativity to break the curse of Cursed (2005) should not be overlooked. It may have been overlooked at the time, but it is now one that deserves to be revisited and enjoyed. Even if it’s just to marvel at what could have been.