#11 in my ranking of Wes Craven’s filmography.
“Hey, let’s make Scream again, except werewolves!” is what I imagine Kevin Williamson said to Wes Craven excitedly one day during a script meeting on Scream 3. It’s one of those ideas that feels fresh when you don’t think about it very much, but the more you do consider it, the more you realize that it’s just as derivative as Scream had become by its third entry. There needs to be more there beyond the concept, and the more seems to have been a season’s worth of storylines all shoved into one 95-minute film quite uncomfortably. That being said, it’s at least likeable enough to get through. A solid cast and some decently entertaining dialogue paper over enough of the frustrating elements that have been inelegantly ported over from Scream to keep the affair from being a complete slog.
Ellie (Christina Ricci) works as a low-level publicist in Hollywood whose boyfriend, Jake (Joshua Jackson), has a reputation for dating girls briefly before dropping them. She has to leave an event one night to take her younger brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) home from the movies because he has no friends. On their way home, they find a wrecked car where a young woman is begging for her life before they are all attacked by a large doglike creature in the dark. Both Ellie and Jimmy get bitten while the girl dies. Jimmy is convinced that what attacked them is a werewolf.
Now, I think my biggest problem is that we have both Ellie and Jimmy working through their experiences of having been bitten by a werewolf and turning into one themselves. This movie is only about an hour and a half long, and largely because there are two characters with claim to the title of main character (Ricci may be on the poster, but Eisenberg has just about as much screentime) who both have their own little worlds that they inhabit with friends, enemies, and crushes, there’s no time to really settle into anything. On the one hand, we have Ellie managing her boyfriend, the other women who want her boyfriend (including her boss, Judy Greer’s Joanie), and her actual job that has something to do with promoting Scott Baio. On the other hand, you have Jimmy dealing with a bully at school (Milo Ventimiglia’s Bo), a crush (Kristina Anapau’s Brooke), and, thankfully, the movie treats Jimmy like a fake high school student instead of a real one. He never goes to class. That cleans things up a lot.
Actually, no, it doesn’t. Either this was supposed to be a more than two-hour long movie, or Kevin Williamson was just struggling to bring in his subplots to a manageable two-hour movie breadth (he’s written a whole lot more television than film), and Wes Craven just simply filmed what Williamson gave him. The film ends up so overstuffed with minor characters that hardly any of them make any kind of impression. The other problem is that the convention of slashers where a tight group of people gets picked off one by one makes some narrative sense. You get a handful of scenes to get your characters in front of the audience before they start getting ripped apart, so you streamline the storytelling in order to introduce as many as cleanly as possible. Splitting it out between two completely different friend/work/school groups is inefficient at best in such a short film.
Anyway, the two develop nascent werewolf powers. Ellie develops a taste for blood that she has trouble controlling, and Jimmy becomes a wunderkind wrestler to embarrass Bo in front of everyone. It turns out, though, that Bo has been attacking Jimmy for being gay (he’s not) because Bo is actually gay himself and he’s got repressed homosexuality! Okay…what does this have to do with anything?
The film concludes with a big party scene (it seems to be something of a default for Williamson) where the werewolf that bit the two siblings on the road comes out and attacks everyone. It ends up being about two women fighting over a man, and if anyone but Judy Greer were doing some of the cat-fighting I’d enjoy it less. She’s simply a fun actor, especially when she decides to vamp it up. But is that the real werewolf? Will there be another attack when we think all is well? Yes, there’s another twist! I did not see that coming! Except I did.
Okay, I feel like I’m being too mean and sarcastic at this point. The film is derivative, not all that unpredictable, and kind of bland in that mid-00s sort of way, but it’s entertaining enough to pass the time. The werewolf effects, well, at least the practical ones, are quite good. The CGI is typical, rushed, mid-00s CGI, which means it’s kind of awful. Ricci is okay as the purported main character, and Eisenberg is fine as the second fiddle. It’s a decent enough, if not nearly as imaginative as it seems to think it is, whodunit mixed with a werewolf story. The action and horror is probably what buoys it the most, with a solid sequence in a parking lot (with a character we don’t care about or know) that stands out.
It’s definitely not Craven’s worst work, but it’s kind of in line with what I would expect from the Williamson/Craven team at this point.