Review: Gruesome, atmospheric ‘The Cursed’ falls short with lightweight story

Simon Kunz, Alistair Petrie, and Amelia Crouch in The Cursed / LD Entertainment

“The Cursed” both is and isn’t a traditional werewolf movie, and that ends up being good but also a little disappointing in number of ways.

Originally titled “Eight for Silver” last year when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, this moody, atmospheric, and gory take on the werewolf legend strays some from the traditional lore canonized in the 1941 Universal Studios version of “The Wolf-Man,” but the condition and creatures that bedevils the Laurent family are recognizably lycanthropic although not quite as wolfish as one might expect or want.

The film, directed and written by Sean Ellis, reminds me both of the novel “Dracula” and the film “Jaws” in a number of scenes, particularly once investigator John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) comes on the scene. His character is a cross between Dr. Van Helsing from “Dracula” and Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper from “Jaws,” basically playing the same role as both, the expert brought in to defuse a monstrously murderous situation.

Ellis crafts a spooky tale with plenty of jump scares and gruesome imagery that is mostly set in 1882 France. The movie opens with a seemingly unnecessary and gory prologue set at the Battle of Somme during World War I before resetting 30 or so years prior.

The film is artfully staged and shot by Ellis who toiled as his own cinematographer. That work enhances a somewhat slight story that any horror fan has experienced a dozen or more times. However Ellis’ craft does make the movie compelling in the moment even if it dissolves from the mind like cotton candy in your mouth once you’ve leave the theater.

As dreadful as the curse is that is inflicted upon the Laurent family, it’s deserved.

After a Roma clan refutes his ownership of a parcel of land, patriarch Seamus Laurent (Allastair Petrie) has them brutally massacred, mutilated, and one survivor (Pascale Becouze) buried alive.

That brutality is the catalyst for the curse.

Playing where the massacre took place, a boy (Tommy Rodger) finds a set of silver fangs — rumored to have been rendered from the silver Judas gained for selling out Jesus. When he places them in his mouth, the boy loses control and chomps down on young Edward Laurent (Max Mackintosh). The cursed Laurent undergoes a striking metamorphosis into a ghastly creature, who proceeds to pass the curse along to anyone who survives one of his attacks.

There are a few twists and turns along the way in this esthetically scary but ultimately lightweight horror film that attempts to evoke a similar claustrophobic, nightmarish quality achieved by a film like Robert Eggers’ “The Witch,” but it falls several steps short.

“The Cursed” has its bloody merits, but unfortunately falls short of a classic.

(R) 1 hr. 52 min.
Grade: C

  New in Local Theaters

The Cursed (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 52 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle

Uncharted (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 55 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight

Dog (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 41 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight

Classic Corner – A salute to director/producer Ivan Reitman

For movie buffs who spent their teen years in the 1980s or 1990s, the recent passing of Ivan Reitman was a particular blow. The producer/director crafted a great chunk of our formative entertainment and no doubt influenced our senses of humor and our love for movies.

Reitman’s big break came with producing “National Lampoon’s Animal House” in 1978 and he followed that up by directing and producing such hits as “Meatballs” (1979), “Stripes” (1981), “Ghostbusters” (1984), “Legal Eagles” (1986), “Twins” (1988), “Ghostbusters II” (1989), “Kindergarten Cop” (1990), “Dave” (1993), “Junior” (1994), “Six Days, Seven Nights” (1998), “Evolution” (2001), “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” (2006), and “No Strings Attached” (2011).

Reitman also produced such notable projects as the animated “Heavy Metal” (1981), the “Beethoven” movies in (1992-1993), the “Space Jam” movies (1996, 2020), “Howard Stern’s Private Parts,” (1997), “Road Trip (2000), “Old School” (2003), “Euro Trip” (2004) and “Trailer Park Boys: The Movie” (2006).

Interestingly enough, Reitman was the first pick to direct “Batman” in the early 1980s, and he planned to cast Bill Murray as the Caped Crusader and David Bowie as the Joker, but it never materialized. Of course Tim Burton wound up directing Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in those roles in the now classic “Batman” from 1989, bringing the character to the big screen for the first time since the 1960s.

Reitman will likely forever be known for directing and producing “Ghostbusters,” particularly with his son’s Jason Reitman’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” reigniting the franchise last November, but here are my two personal favorites of Reitman’s movies, which might make a fun double feature to honor the late director/producer.


Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in Stripes / Columbia Pictures

Like most comedies made in the 1980s, “Stripes” is not politically correct, but it’s still hilarious.

Bill Murray is at his comedic best in this film that catapulted him to movie stardom, but he’s not the only funny performer in the film. Harold Ramis co-stars as his buddy who joins the Army with him because basically they have nothing better to do with their lives at the moment. From there, hilarity ensues.

The film was also John Candy’s big Hollywood break as the indulgent Dewey “Ox” Oxenberger. His mud-wrestling scene is over-the-top funny. Warren Oates shines as Sgt. Hulka, who puts Murray and the other enlistees through their paces before an unfortunate but hilarious accident. John Larroquette of “Nightcourt,” Sean Young and P.J. Soles have memorable supporting roles.

It’s probably been a couple of decades since I’ve watched “Stripes.” This weekend might be a good time to refresh my memory. The movie is rated R, so it’s might not be one you want to introduce to the kids.


Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver in Dave / Warner Bros

“Dave” is not nearly as sophomoric as “Stripes,” but it is basically family friendly, charming, and witty. The movie truly is Reitman’s ode to the type of romantic-comedies director Frank Capra crafted in the 1930s and ‘40s.

Fans of Capra will be reminded of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) and “State of the Union” (1948), two movies well worth checking out if you enjoy “Dave.”

The conceit of the movie is that Dave (Kevin Kline), who runs a temp service, is a dead ringer for President Bill Mitchell (also Kline). Dave is recruited to serve as a proxy for the president while he recovers from a stroke he suffered while in the throes of an affair with a staffer.

Chief of Staff Bob Alexander (Frank Langella) and Communications Director Alan Reed (Kevin Dunn) coerce Dave into replacing the president without even telling the First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver), who is estranged from her husband.

Alexander and Reed’s plan is to run the country while Dave serves as a figure head. However, when Dave is duped by Alexander into signing a bill that goes against his ethos, Dave begins to undercut their plans to popular success. In the mean time, while first fooled by Dave when they had little contact, Ellen discovers Dave’s secret and then begins to fall in love with him.

As always Kline is excellent with an every-man performance that would have made Capra and Jimmy Stewart proud, and the script by Gary Ross is so on point, funny and charming that the absurdity of the situation almost seems possible.

For my money, “Dave” is Reitman’s best film with a standout performance by Kline and strong work by Weaver, Langella and Dunn.