By Jeffrey M. Anderson
The horror flick The Accursed kicks off with a terrific opening scene, but that promise is soon dashed as it rolls out dull characters and predictable plot turns and winds up as overly-familiar and half-hearted.
Mary Lynn (Alexis Knapp) and her mute daughter Sadie (Kai Phillippe-Knapp) pay a visit to a witch to ask for a special curse. Then, three months later, after her mother’s death, Elly (Sarah Grey) is cleaning out her mother’s house, with the help of her best friend Beth (Sarah Dumont). She keeps hearing unsettling things, like her mother’s voice, and an old record her mother used to play.
She receives a mysterious phone call, from Alma (Mena Suvari), offering her a job as a caretaker for an old woman. Alma claims that Elly’s mother recommended her for the job, even though they were estranged. Elly decides to take the job, and finds herself alone with the unconscious woman in a remote house. But something seems wrong, and is confirmed when Mary Lynn and Sadie drop by and urge Elly to leave before it’s too late.
The first line in The Accursed is “don’t come inside until the screaming starts,” and the stuff that follows is killer, as Mary Lyn faces off with the gravelly-voiced witch in a creepy room filled with horrific wonders. It ends with Sadie holding up a freshly-bitten-off demon finger. It’s a fully satisfying scene, and the disappointment comes quickly after the “three months later” title card and Mary Lynn and Sadie are nowhere to be seen. Instead, we get the sad, passive Elly, who feels guilty about not being there for her mom and makes not-very-bright decisions.
Perhaps worse is Beth, the typical smart-alecky best friend character whose entire life is devoted to doing things for Elly. The story depends on Elly wandering dumbly into danger but it’s hard to feel much sympathy for her, especially when the warning signs are all there. Certain secrets are meant to be saved for surprise “twists,” but they’re frankly not very surprising. Other things are just lazily unexplained or disregarded.
Everything in The Accursed goes through the motions as we wait for the inevitable, punctuated only by a scene in which Mary Lynn and Sadie re-appear (played by real-life mother and daughter). It’s a small, short jolt of energy, and it’s enough to make us wish that the entire movie had been about them instead.