The Academy Awards are basically a sham designed by the studios to increase box office returns more than to recognize any art or achievement in filmmaking – because Hollywood is about the bottom line above all else and doesn’t care what it has to do to maximize profits.

Unfortunately, I think we all know this and have learned to accept it. The problem is, we wouldn’t mind so much if the studios respected their audiences instead of insulting us by editing explicit films into more adolescent-friendly fare.

Such is the case with Wes Craven’s new film “Cursed,” although not all the blame lies with its studio. Shot and reshot, edited and re-edited over the past two years, this movie was probably doomed to box office failure from the beginning. However, the basics of the film aren’t all bad, and I think many of the movie’s problems stem from the fact that, as a last ditch effort to get a larger audience and more revenue, “Cursed” was edited down from R to PG-13. None of this makes for good cinema.

“Cursed” is the most recent collaboration between director Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson, whose last effort, “Scream,” is almost ten years old. I liked that movie and found it not exactly smart, but clever.

Something similar comes through in “Cursed,” but it’s so clogged with bad edits and a piecemeal style that it’s never able to advance beyond the confines of its plot, although it certainly tries.

Basically, the movie is about a sister and brother – a television producer and student, respectively – who are bitten by a werewolf in the woods after they are forced off the road by a car accident. Strange occurrences start taking place in their lives, and the two soon realize what it is they are becoming. In order to prevent their continuing transformations, they decide to seek out and kill the creature that bit them.

Granted, the plot is typical and leaves much to be desired. But there are hints that it’s attempting to articulate something more interesting than it actually does or can say.

For example, “Cursed” suggests that being cursed may actually be more of a boon than a menace and that there are unforeseen benefits to eating and eviscerating bullies and co-workers. Also, it seems that any problems associated with being a werewolf might be what we usually face at work or school. However, these elements are only hinted at, and I think the most appealing parts of the film were left on the cutting room floor in favor of lame chase scenes and cheap scares instead of – and I’m being serious here – more interesting meditations on the implications of being a werewolf.

“Cursed” is probably better than you’d think, although it has far too many flaws for me to recommend it to anyone but the curious. It wouldn’t be so bad, however, if it wasn’t for the fact that the major failures of the film stem from studio interference and the desire to make money.

Keep this in mind as you ruminate on the Academy Awards and consider what movies to watch this weekend. Most will be better than “Cursed,” but the principles behind them are the same. It makes me wonder which event this past week was actually more insulting – watching “Cursed” or a four-hour commercial.

Battenhausen can be reached at dbattenhausen@campustimes.org.



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