Remember those one-off made-for-TV Halloween movies that used to air when you were a kid? Films like Halloweentown or Phantom of the Megaplex dominated the autumn airwaves at the turn of the millennium as they competed with Hocus Pocus for the title of “best campy Disney Channel movie to watch on a Wednesday night in October.” Comedy Central certainly hopes you remember those times, because their latest two-hours-with-commercials special Cursed Friends is a throwback to 2002 in just about every way imaginable.

The straight-to-streaming-and-cable film stars Harvey Guillén, Nicole Byer, Jessica Lowe, and Andrew Lewis Caldwell in a bizarro horror/comedy that’s somehow light on both horror and comedy, but will no doubt make the rounds on streaming as Comedy Central tries to compete with Hallmark for its share of the hastily-made festive film market. Cursed Friends harkens us back to the early 2000’s, back when Comedy Central made watchable specials, when the NSYNC boys were every girl’s fantasy, and when 9/11 was hauntingly fresh in our national memory. Seriously. Cursed Friends truly cannot stop making jokes about 9/11.

The film opens on Halloween night, 2002, in Sherman Oaks, California. Four child actors of shockingly disparate ages have an uncomfortably sexual conversation while dressed as the boys of NSYNC. The group reaches the last stop of their trick-or-treating adventure, which fatefully happens to be occupied by a one-eyed witch played by Kathy Griffin. She gifts them a suspicious notebook meant for playing the children’s game MASH, and thus the story begins.

We flash forward to present day Los Angeles, and our leading lady Erica, played by Jessica Lowe, returns to her home in California for a job interview with Nikki Glaser after an unspecified amount of time in New York. She reunites with her friends Mikayla, played by Nailed It! Host Nicole Byer, and Andy, played by Harvey Guillén of What We Do in the Shadows fame. They return to Erica’s childhood home and walk in on her slacker, degenerate brother Josh, played by Andrew Lewis Caldwell, while he’s “watching some short films”.

With the crew reunited, they naturally stumble upon the MASH notebook and revisit their childhood predictions for where they will live, how many kids they will have, who they will marry, and what their jobs will be. Erica finds a “poem” at the back of the book which conveniently had never been read in the twenty years leading up to this moment, and recites it out loud, unleashing Kathy Griffin’s curse on the group – all of the predictions written on the last page will come true.

NBC

Not nearly as bad as the curse she put on those Seinfeld episodes

As far as curses go, this is a pretty tame one – Erica’s worst MASH result was that she would marry Kevin Fishbein, a shlubby-looking Uber driver with a gift for cheesemaking and impressions. This doesn’t stop the group from collectively losing their minds and beginning a murderous rampage in an attempt to break the curse (spoiler alert: the only way to break it is through the power of friendship), which leads them from cameo to cameo by performers whose appearances would probably be more exciting in the early 2000’s. 

Will Arnett plays a new-age medium who makes some forced jokes about Venmo, Rob Riggle plays a creepy teacher from their childhoods who stalks Andy for some reason, and Joey Fatone from NSYNC appears as himself in some deeply uncomfortable flirting scenes with Nicole Byer that are heavy on entendre and light on humor.

Comedy Central

Probably should have left the hat and bolo tie back in 2002 as well

Everything about this film feels like it might have worked in the 2000’s when you could easily carry a two-hour Comedy Central special on nothing but jokes about porn and farting, but in 2022, Cursed Friends comes across as phone-in comedy, and its only apparent purpose seems to be to cash checks for its slapped-together cast.

Like Kathy Griffin, holiday specials and TV movies are a relic from a bygone era that may have their niche for a specific audience, but really don’t do anything to distinguish themselves from the litany of other entertainment options. Cursed Friends might tickle someone’s Halloween-themed fancy (a phrase which Nicole Byers would follow up with a joke about genitals), but when we’re in the mood for a spooky comedy, we’ll just stick to watching Ghostbusters for the 1000th time.

Top Image: Comedy Central

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