Mar 2, 2005 at 12:00 am

Much has changed in the years since writer Kevin Williamson and horror mogul Wes Craven teamed up for Scream — just don’t tell them that. To judge by this latest effort, a bloodless teen werewolf flick, they’re more than willing to keep dry-humping their past successes well into their golden years.

The movie follows the Williamson-Craven template to a T: A marginal star (here, Shannon Elizabeth) plays a girl who gets offed in the first 10 minutes of celluloid; a willowy brunette (an alarmingly paper-thin Christina Ricci) answers the door in a silky nightgown; a shocking plot twist turns out to be a rug-pulling dream sequence; a homophobe jock (Milo Ventimiglia) eventually gets his comeuppance; and a past-his-prime TV star (Scott Baio) makes an embarrassing cameo, possibly for ironic effect (although it’s hard to tell).

What makes Cursed even less than the sum of its perfunctory parts is its indifferent pacing and undistinguished look. Right from the opening credits sequence, the movie feels like something showing in the middle of the night on the USA Network 15 years ago, albeit with a better cast and without the ear-piercing commentary of Gilbert Gottfried. A clue to the rushed editing and lack of suspense might be the film’s PG-13 rating, which was attained only after Dimension Films decided to eliminate all the gore from the werewolf-attack scenes. What’s left are a lot of promising young actors wandering around and looking confused as they awkwardly interact with the second-worst-looking CGI creatures this year (a title recently claimed by the craptastic Christian Slater turkey Alone in the Dark).

On the plus side, Ricci and newcomer Jesse Eisenberg (The Village) both have their moments as devoted siblings fallen victim to “the mark of the beast.” Eisenberg oozes some of the same gleeful geekiness that Tobey Maguire did in the first Spider-Man, and Ricci has at least one terrific scene stalking the halls of her office, sniffing out blood. Still, this is the kind of role usually reserved for the low-rent Rose McGowan, and the undernourished Ricci can’t help but seem like she’s slumming it — wasn’t there a time when it was the other way around?

You know a movie’s been sitting on the shelf for a while when its main character works behind the scenes at The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, a show which — memo to the producers of Cursed — is no longer hosted by Craig Kilborn. Die-hard horror buffs might have a tiny bit of fun with some of Craven’s references — the font on the credits may or may not be an homage to Halloween, and a brutal car accident at the beginning recalls John Travolta’s demise in Carrie — but aside from that, this is an everything-must-go clearance sale of some of Williamson’s lamest attempts at morbid humor, fake-out shocks and tired pop-culture references.

Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].