Dir: Wes Craven. US.2005. 95mins

The release date of 2005tells one side - perhaps the official one - to Cursed, the new werewolfpicture from Dimension, the in-house genre arm of Miramax that revitalised themodern horror landscape with the self-aware yet scary Scream picturesfrom what now seems like eons ago. Almost every frame of its being, however,tells the other side of Cursed; of a troubled and shelved production (itshot in 2003) stitched together and reanimated as an awkward, unconvincingentry in the PG-13, jolt-and-shock, teen disposable income sweepstakes. Theresult is spectacularly and unremittingly awful.

Theatrical performance inthe US - it took around $9.6m from an estimated 2,805 screens - has alreadyseemed to be poisoned by the advance negative buzz in fanboy circles andrelatively uninspired casting. A quiet release (the movie was not screened inadvance for critics) may help the studio recoup some of its monies, but deadlyword-of-mouth seems almost certain to resign the picture to one-week-and-donestatus.

International prospects,where there's been overall less reportage on the movie's myriadbehind-the-scenes production crises, are perhaps better by comparison, butgiven the lack of a large global star Cursed seems assured of deservedignominy.

Christina Ricci stars asEllie Myers, a talent booker on The Craig Kilborn Show (one of severalsigns of the movie's datedness, since Mr Kilborn is no longer on US TV) whosenewish boyfriend is party planner Jake (erstwhile Dawson's Creeker JoshuaJackson). Ellie and her younger brother Jimmy (an unappealing Jesse Eisenberg),a bookish high school wallflower, get into a car accident with Becky (ShannonElizabeth).

All three are then attackedby a vicious, hairy and mysterious creature, but Ellie and Jimmy survive, onlyto then have heightened senses and a strange (and presumably new) predilectionfor chewing on raw bacon.

As Jimmy reads up onwerewolves and faces down a coterie of gel-haired bullies that actually dothings like slap books out of his hands and lob a steady stream of homophobicinsults his way, so Ellie does her best to ignore any symptoms of hirsutechange and instead cope with a weirdly insistent and abrasive publicist, Joanie(Judy Greer).

Spurred on by a bizarreconfession from Jake, Ellie finally acknowledges there might be something toJimmy's supposition that they've been "marked by the beast." Things come to ahead at a Hollywood club opening where all parties meet, under a full moon ofcourse.

If the narrative synopsissounds vague and confusing, it's because Cursed doesn't have a cohesiveplot. The film ostensibly takes place over the course of two nights, but there-conceptualised story places scenes up against one another that findcharacters behaving in nonsensical, contradictory ways. The relationshipsbetween certain key characters are never wholly and accurately defined. Theroles of the aforementioned Elizabeth and singer-actress Mya have seeminglybeen whittled down from plot-device supporting players to essentially cameos,and Jackson's and Greer's parts figure to have been drastically reconstitutedand tailored to fit new-fangled conveniences.

A herky-jerky, movie-likemass, Cursed moves hastily and inexorably forward, but like one of thosewooden-track rollercoaster rides that induces more aches than thrills. Apicture of this conspicuous popcorn type shouldn't have you checking yourwatch, but Cursed stumbles so badly with its irrational, illogicalplotting that it feels interminable, and it's quite a shock at the end todiscover only 95 minutes have passed.

The esteemed Rick Bakerprovides some decent practical creature effects, but these are easily cancelledout by wretched and laughable CGI that rob the werewolf scenes of any beastlyscares.

"What doesn't kill you makesyou stronger," goes the old saying. With Cursed, though, all but themost hardcore and generous (read: uncritical) genre audiences will be prayingfor an end to their lycanthropic misery.

Prod co: Outerbanks Ent, Craven Maddalena Films
US dist:
Dimension Films
Int'l sales:
Dimension Films
Exec prods:
Bob Weinstein, HarveyWeinstein, Brad Weston, Andrew Rona, Marianne Maddalena, David Crockett
Marianne Maddalena, KevinWilliamson
Kevin Williamson
Robert McLachlan and DonMcCuaig
Prod des:
Chris Cornwell andBruce Alan Miller
Gregg Featherman and PatrickLussier
Marco Beltrami and Tom Hiel
Main cast:
Christina Ricci, JesseEisenberg, Joshua Jackson, Michael Rosenbaum, Milo Ventimiglia, Judy Greer,Kristina Anapau, with cameos from Portia de Rossi, Shannon Elizabeth, Mya and(as themselves) Craig Kilborn, Scott Baio and Lance Bass